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Michel Le Royer
Pretty Much Your Only Chance to See the Byzantine's on Film... Unfortunately
Loosely translated as Assault on Rome this is the second part of a duology that takes place in Italy during the Justinianic era. It's been 50 years since Rome fell to the Goths and now their rule is slipping. King Theodoric is dead and his two daughters fight for the throne. The slimy Cethegus plots for the rise of Rome while the Byzantines aim to reconquer Italy. It all sounds confusing but they make up for that by ignoring it and focusing it on a cheap romance. It's really too bad because all the compelling parts come from the twisted machinations.
Since this is the second film I can reveal some spoilers from the first one. Actually, just one big spoiler. So stop reading now if you don't want the surprise ruined. The spoiler is the way in which they treat Belisarius. They make him out to be a kind of big bully instead of Justinian's penultimate general. They have him utterly outmaneuvered by everybody, including Wittigis who defeats him in hand to hand combat outside Rome. And then he dies. And at that point I just wondered why they even bothered trying to fit this into history at all. For those not in the know, Belisarius did NOT die in Rome. Or in battle. Or anywhere close to that time. He died of old age about thirty years after the movie. The ahistorical killing off of a minor character (which he really is in this movie) years before his time would not be so bad, except that Belisarius shouldn't be a minor character to begin with. He was the one leading the Byzantine forces in Italy. He conquered the nation only to be recalled through fear of treachery. So by changing it they remove all connection with reality. This is just after he arrives in Italy too so it really does change everything. It would be like having Caesar die in battle before he marches on Rome and then expecting the audience to take it seriously. This has become a fantasy film set in a world that (loosely) resembles ancient Rome. Nothing more.
It's really rather annoying to be disappointed after working so hard to find this film. It's impossible to get ahold of. Worse, it actually IS impossible to find it in English. There aren't any English subs available for it either. Which is rather funny since at least some of the actors were filming it in English. They had Orson Welles and Honor Blackman in it, and the lead actor is British. So unless your German is good you're not watching anything. But you're not really missing anything either. I suppose it all balances itself out.
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