A demobilized centurion returns home to Pompeii to find his father murdered by a gang of black-hooded Christian robbers that terrorizes the city and he decides to investigate the matter while the nearby volcano threatens to erupt.
Having watched a spate of Trojan War movies recently, I have to say this is among the best. It's not as epic as Robert Wise's excellent HELEN OF TROY from 1956, but far superior to the lame 2003 TV movie of that title and also to the Brad Pitt vehicle TROY.
The story begins at the very end of the war, with events in full swing. The focus is on the Trojan noble Aeneas (Steve Reeves), a man of peace forced by circumstance to become a great warrior. Paris and Helen are portrayed as burned-out, bitter lovers; Paris's death scene is quite dramatic. The various Greek besiegers (Achilles, Ajax, etc.) are sharply drawn.
The sets are wonderful. The CGI monstrosities of TROY and even the imposing sets for Wise's HELEN OF TROY were far too overblown to be historically credible; here we see a much more likely representation of the Bronze Age city, with a low wall, small but exquisite temples, dirt streets, and a populace weary of siege and infighting. The camp of the Greeks is built on an equally convincing scale.
Anchoring the whole film is Reeves' portrayal of Aeneas. Playing Hercules made him world famous, but this is the role he was born for. His heroic stature is truly impressive. Happily, he reprised the role in a sequel, LAST GLORY OF TROY (LA LEGGENDA DI ENEA), which picks up the story of Aeneas after his flight from Troy and his arrival in Italy, where once again the warrior must make take up arms to achieve the peace he desires. In both movies, the filmmakers' use of elements from The Iliad of Homer and The Aeneid of Virgil is intelligent and laudable. Together these films deliver a truly impressive vision of the earliest legends of ancient Rome.
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