I recall a childhood viewing on Italian TV of a film entitled IL LADRO DI DAMASCO (which, officially, translates to THE THIEF OF DAMASCUS); over the years, having completely forgotten it, I was under the impression that the movie I’d watched was the 1952 Sam Katzman-produced effort (which actually drops the article) co-starring Lon Chaney Jr. – but, all of a sudden, this Italian peplum turns up on TV and it turned out to be the film I’d come across eons ago…
Given the ultra-modest credentials, I wasn’t really expecting anything here but was merely curious to re-acquaint myself with it, if anything for purposes of nostalgia. However, the film emerged to be a harmless enough outing and, all in all, quite a pleasant romp: in essence, the plot transposes the roguish hero of many an Arabian Nights tale to Ancient Rome – typically, he (played by bland but affable Tony Russel) gets into all kind of scrapes but is always able to get out of them unscathed with cunning and the help of his devoted pal (Ferruccio Amendola once again, who also happened to be the nephew of the film’s writer/director!)
The main villain is a treacherous Syrian merchant who, in cahoots with the Roman governor, seeks to be made the first local potentate in return for revealing the identity of the patriotic rebels. As usual for such juvenile fare, this slimy individual has also set his eyes and heart on the local beauty whose true love, it goes without saying, is our thieving hero. Predictably, she is abducted to the former’s palace and is ingeniously saved by the comically black-faced and acrobatic intervention of Russel and Amendola (who, in making up their gibberish Negrospeak, contrive to include contemporary Italian musical fads like “Ully Gully” and “Dadaumpa”)!! The elaborate climax involves a free-for-all confrontation between Romans and Syrians and, when all seems lost (including Russel’s head to the executioner), a tell-tale bodily scar reveals the thief’s true patrician lineage!
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