The Forgotten: Flaming Beefcake

  • MUBI
Cabiria (1914) was the seminal Italian historical epic, adding to the gigantic sets and overplayed melodrama of predecessors like Nero and The Fall of Troy, with elegant camera moves (using Segundo de Chomon's first purpose-built dolly) and celebrity cameos for Hannibal and Archimedes. "It had everything but a story," observed Karl Brown, Dw Griffith's camera assistant. Giovanni Pastrone and Gabriele D'Annunzio's historical pageant influenced movies from Intolerance to Metropolis to Conan the Barbarian, and Fellini borrowed its heroine's name for his wife's role in The White Sheik and Nights of Cabiria.

But the figure who caught the public imagination was not the titular heroine, but Maciste, the heroic slave, played by Bartolomeo Pagano, a Genovese longshoreman with a spectacularly muscled physique. Maciste/Pagano went on to star in twenty-four more movies over the next fourteen years, of which the most famous (and the only one available, albeit in somewhat
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