Wednesday, October 04, 2006

XXVI. I GIGANTI DI ROMA (THE GIANTS OF ROME) 1964




I Giganti di Roma ( The Giants of Rome)

Year;
1964

Director: Antonio Margheriti

Music; Carlo Rustichelli

Country; Italy & France

Duration; 100 minutes

The Players;Richard Harrison (Claudius Marcellus) Wandisa Guida( Livilla) Ettore Manni (Castor) Philippe Hersent (Drusus) Rulph Hudson( Germanicus) Nicole Tessier ( Edua) Goffredo Unger (Varo) Renato Baldini (Drood) Piero Lulli (Pompeus) Alessandro Sperli (Julius Caesar)

Alternatives; Les Geants de Rome (French)
Available;Retromedia DVD
Original Ratio;
2:35:1
DVD Ratio; Fullscreen
Colour * English Language* Dubbed*

Alongside Mario Bava were Riccardo Freda and Antonio Margheriti who were also best associated with their gothic horror contribution to genre cinema than their sword and sandal achievements (Mario Bava could be just out of this scope as despite its’ main peplum ingredient ‘Hercules in the Haunted World’ was also marketed,effectively, as a horror film )

Margheriti churned out two movies worth mentioning, both vehicles for the overrated Barbara Steele namely ‘The Long Hair of Death’ and ‘Castle of Blood’.

I have yet to see these and will compare one day.

With his directorial identity well established and respected thanks to cobwebs and cadavers Giants of Rome was his interpretation of ancient adventure with a few decent combats chucked in for good measure.



The hero of the film is Richard Harrison, the good looker from ‘Perseus L’invincibile’ made a year previous.

Although Giants of Rome is watchable and breaks off, refreshingly, from the mythological milieu to interpret actual periods in history as its’ backdrop; this doesn’t save the vehicle from the mundane and the film offers no apologies for what it is - a luke warm cash-in.

The film could be likened to WW2 movie or ‘The Guns of Navarone’ ….in togas, but whatever we equate it too in similarity it couldn’t cloud our minds from thinking that some of its’ running time can be exceptionally plodding.

Set in ancient Rome, at the time of Julius Caesar, the main plot focuses on a bunch of assembled elite gladiators and their plight in locating and destroying a secret weapon of the Gauls.

Harrison plays the lead, Claudius Marcellus, who is a firm favourite amongst his fellow fighters and becomes their heroic commander.

The majority of the film consists of them being captured by the barbarian horde then escaping then being captured once more.

Although these instances are mildly enthralling Margheriti does let the plot drag considerably at times but never seems to lose foresight of the fate of the gladiators and their mission.

Aspects of dull are salvaged in a pretty cool underwater raft ambush but other instances of notoriety simply passed me by or were rather flimsy to make an impact I found.

When revealed the Gauls' secret weapon is - a rather disappointing catapult in a cavern, a rustic creation combining of clanking chains and wooden levers. Plausible but very b-movie!

There is also the obligatory love interest courtesy of Wandisa Guidas’ tepid Livilla, but this too is a bit of a non-entity that seems to come and go without leaving a big dent in the plot or that much of an impression.

Once again with films of this type the locations and sets are lovingly reconstructed to represent the unpredictably violent times.

The choice of Carlo Rustichelli for the soundtrack was a saving grace as he serves two purposes in this film, to boost up the dramatic impact and to save the weariest of our viewers from napping.

Its’ such a pity that the acoustics on this DVD are so shit, and so one cannot appreciate them fully.

Giants of Rome is not a flunker but it’s nowhere near a classic either and seems to sit somewhere in between.

Its’ one of those ‘seen-once-and-move-on’ movies that would be perfect for a rainy day but is way down the list of potential sword and sandal epics that display the best attributes of the genre .

Just average this one, so don’t expect too much and you should find you’re sufficiently entertained, just not bowled over.

The print under review features alongside the Hercules and the Princess of Troy episode.

Both are a little ropey in quality, visually they both show a bit of wear and tear. The sound also plays up, with a segment of speech being lost in the TV ‘Hercules’ episode and a constant hiss on the Giants of Rome.

Both however are exemplary in comparison to the Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops print which is one of the worst I have seen, more on that abortion in its respective section.

Buy Giants of Rome (and guests) from this link and surprise, surprise (sarcas.) its Region 1 only.


XXV. HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY (1965) (TELEVISION PILOT)




Hercules and the Princess of Troy (Televison pilot for proposed series)

Year; 1965

Director: Albert Band

Writer; Larry Forrester & Ugo Liberatore

Country; Italy America

Duration; 47 minutes

The Players; Gordon Scott (Hercules) Paul Stevens (Diogenes) Mart Hulswitt(Ulysses) Diana Hyland (Princess Diana) Steve Garrett (Petra) Gordon Mitchell (Pirate Captain) George Ardisson (Leander) Roger Browne (Ortag) Jacques Stany(Argus)

Alternatives; Hercules vs. the Sea Monster

Available; Retromedia DVD

Original Ratio; 1.33:1 DVD Ratio; 1.33:1 Colour / Mono / Region 1

By 1965 peplum had fought it’s last battle until it’s resurgence in the 1980’s. Joseph E Levine the man who brought Hercules from Europe to the states had one final stab at sword and sandal entrepreneurialism with a proposed television series.

Hercules and the Princess of Troy was the pilot episode for a potential programme of our mythological heroes’ adventures on his big ship Olympia.

Due to the peplum genres exit from popularity and a general lack of interest the series was shelved and this is the only example of what may have been.

With a scant running time of approx. 47 minutes what is offered to us is a lively romp that is equivalent too if not better than any of the shows Irwin Allen churned out, the only obvious major difference was science fiction was utilised in theme instead of fabled fantasy.

On the whole it’s disappointing that a serial didn’t surface in full but judging by the production values of just one episode there would need to be a massive amount of money in the pot to keep up the wealthy momentum. The expense of sets and no doubt had the show been commissioned a few ‘big name’ lures could be another factor why it didn’t surface at all.

Gordon Scott who plays the quiff hair-styled demi-god, is instantly likeable and proves he is versatile in his portrayal of Hercules and dealing with whatever is flung in his path to challenge.

Despite other credible performances Scotts’ lively performance is never upstaged and holds his army of liberators together against varied adversaries from man to monster.

The effects themselves aren’t half bad either.

Carlo Rambaldi (the man behind the crude but pioneering sfx in Giants of Thessaly and much later helped to create that ugly cunt - E.T) creates a hard shelled pincer beetle thing from the depths.

Despite it being rooted to the spot in most cases similar to the fun fair ride based monster in Hercules Vs.The Hydra, it does try to offer enough near misses and thrills when confronted in the final battle.

There are also some great sequences where the creature advances on it’s tethered maiden tied to a solitary rock and one can help feel a little bit of ‘childhood’ delight when the creature pulls Hercules into the air held by its’ vice like grip.

So some of the 47 minutes demonstrates wonderful stuff, the sort of imagery legends and childhood memories are made of!

It really is so significant to see this format without the lead characters being decapitated or vital action taking place ‘off screen’ as in some of the other ration cock-ups that plague these mipics (mini-epics abbreviation, editors speak !).

Most participants appear to be having a jolly time. Cameron Mitchell, stalwart of such beefcake fayre crops up as a baddie pirate with much mascara and Diana Hyland plays the titular princess. I think she played Wonder Woman’s mother a decade later too. Doesn’t look like her career took off too well then really!

The plot is basic but for all its flimsy is usurped by the on screen fisty cuffs and beefcake battles. It’s also good to see actors using their real vocal talent (?) without the awful dub; synonymous with films like this.

This was due to English speaking actors being filmed on Italian location. Despite the yank funding the euro-feel is still strong much too many viewers relief.

It starts with a young maiden being sacrificed by the Trojans as an appeasement to a seafaring monster of the deep. By doing this it prevents the monster from infiltrating the city and munching on its’ inhabitants.

Unfortunately the creature is seemingly unstoppable and all the brave mortals that have attempted to destroy it have become the hors d’oeuvres or maimed terribly.

On the ocean wave sails Olympia captained by Hercules and a fond crew of different capabilities and characters. They try to right wrongs and keep the peace where necessary and lend a helping hand to realms in peril.

They come across a pirate ship which has a cargo full of kidnapped female Trojans snatched by slave trade pirates as they tried to flee Troy to avoid being ritual fodder.

Hercules and chums rescue the crew then set sail for Troy to slay the beast once and for all.

A jolly romp it all was too, its’ such a shame that this never gave the public even one series. The amount of mythological wealth could have been plundered left, right and centre and used to brilliant effect. Sadly it just was not meant to be.

This episode can be found on DVD courtesy of Retromedia, you can buy it here, it features alongside two other s&s films on the disc.

The DVD package is worth the purchase for the novelty factor alone; as worthy a mention as any of its longer relations, despite its’ short running time and lack of comparisons.