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Groggy
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« on: May 29, 2009, 01:18:50 PM »

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So, thanks to Netflix I've finally gotten around to seeing Sergio Leone's debut film, the 1961 peplum The Colossus of Rhodes. Despite a handful of neat directorial touches and an interesting story, Colossus is pretty typical of its genre and its studio, with only sporadic hints of a future master at the helm.

Dario (Rory Calhoun) is a celebrated Greek warrior vacationing on the island of Rhodes, ruled by the tyrannical King Serses (Robert Carmadiel), which has just completed building the great Colossus as a monument to the King's glory. Before long, Dario finds himself involved in a complicated web of political intrigues: a group of slave rebels recruit an unwitting Dario to help overthrow the King, and Serses' greedy advisor Thar (Conrado San Martin) is importing Phoenician mercenaries for an attempt coup d'etat of his own, with the help of his duplicitous lover Diala (Lea Massari). Dario sides with the rebels and sets out to defeat both evil parties and make things right on Rhodes.

My experience with the peplum genre is pretty much limited to the atrocious, laughably bad Hercules films with Steve Reeves. Like the Spaghetti Westerns Leone would later make his name (and legend) with, the peplums were largely an off-shoot of a popular Hollywood genre, in this case the sword-and-sandal historical epic that dominated Hollywood in the late '50s and early '60s: Quo Vadis?, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, The Fall of the Roman Empire. (It's certainly no coincidence that Leone worked as an assistant director on the former two films.) Colossus is fairly unremarkable, hampered by a limited budget, with a few neat directoral flairs and story ideas interspersed throughout; certainly it lacks the skill, quality and depth of a Spartacus or Ben-Hur, with the usual genre cliches in abundance - gladiator fights, executions, sultry maidens, crooked kings, ruthless schemers, and rebellious slaves.

The movie's plot certainly has a lot going on. The movie's multifaceted storyline and tangled intrigues are comparable to an average Hollywood sword-and-sandal film, at least in theory. Leone and Christopher Frayling have argued that the movie is a parody of Alfred Hitchcock's spy films - Dario as Cary Grant in North By Northwest, the hollow Colossus itself standing in for Saboteur's empty Statue of Liberty - and while it's difficult to dismiss this idea, given Leone's well-noted cinephilia, it may be an attempt to add gloss to an unremarkable film. Whatever the case, the interesting-on-paper story is inevitably let down by the lagging budget and production values. The acting is adequate, with the expected atrocious dubbing, the screenplay clunkily written, Angelo Lavagino's score banal and bombastic - in these regards, Colossus is nothing special. The film moves at a snail's pace, with lots of poorly-dubbed talking scenes, interspersed with some nice cinematography and an occasional battle scene.

The best part, unsurprisingly, is the film's direction and design. The movie's art direction is wonderful, with lots of well-designed, ornamented and foreboding sets - Diala's home, Serses' palace, and the mechanical, empty Colossus itself - and Leone's trademark camera eye and visual sense are already clearly developed. Action scenes are handled adequately, with a handful of standout moments in the film (the final battle in the Colossus a standout). However, the movie is only fitfully exciting, and while auteurists may spot some visual cues that will point the way to Leone's later films, that's not reason enough to watch it in and of itself.

Colossus of Rhodes isn't by any means a bad film, merely an unremarkable one. The few flashes of Leone flair are a very small piece of the whole, and not reason enough to watch. This film is recommended to non-discerning sword-and-sandal fans and Leone die-hards only; for anyone else, it's at best a curio. At the very least, it's no worse than A Fistful of Dollars.

Rating: - 5/10 - Mediocre

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« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2009, 03:37:37 PM »

I generally agreed with the entire review until you suddenly  lost your clarity on the last sentence:

At the very least, it's no worse than A Fistful of Dollars.

That's blasphemous, especially 'round these parts.





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Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre. What did you think of the script?
titoli
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« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2009, 03:39:47 PM »

That's blasphemous, especially 'round these parts.

No, 'round whatever part.

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T.H.
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« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2009, 03:45:08 PM »

touche

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Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre. What did you think of the script?
Novecento
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« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2009, 04:13:24 PM »

I'd like to add "sacrilegious" to that  Wink

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Groggy
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« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2009, 04:15:10 PM »

My dislike of FOD is rather common knowledge, I should think.

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Groggy
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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2009, 04:43:31 PM »

No, 'round whatever part.

He said especially, Titoli. That does not imply exclusivity. Roll Eyes

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« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2009, 05:05:15 PM »

My dislike of FOD is rather common knowledge, I should think.

Well I'm new round these parts and I think you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself  Wink

Groggy, Would you agree with me when I say that the whole "Once Upon a Time" trilogy is superior to the "Dollars" trilogy?

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Groggy
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« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2009, 06:08:10 PM »

Yes.

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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2009, 06:56:53 PM »

My dislike of FOD is rather common knowledge, I should think.

I didn't know the extent of it.

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Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre. What did you think of the script?
Colonel GŁnther Ruiz
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« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2009, 08:55:49 PM »

Funny, I have the same movie on its way from Netflix (it will be here tomorrow).  I decided that since I just joined a Leone forum, I might as well watch the only Leone film that I haven't seen.  Well I only saw the last 45 minutes of My Name is Nobody but is that considered a Leone film?  Anyway thanks for the review and I'll see how I like Colossus.   Afro

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titoli
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« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2009, 09:07:08 PM »

He said especially, Titoli. That does not imply exclusivity. Roll Eyes

Yeah, sure.

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Groggy
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« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2009, 08:13:49 AM »

I think you need to brush up on your English, signor.

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titoli
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« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2009, 02:56:25 PM »

I think you need to brush up on your English, signor.

Yeah, sure.

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Groggy
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« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2009, 07:06:16 PM »

I don't know you had a parrot, Titoli. What's his name?

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