17 April 2011 | Bunuel1976
SINS OF ROME (Riccardo Freda, 1953) **1/2
The version I watched of this peplum (dealing with the exploits of Spartacus – played by Massimo Girotti – here a mercenary prior to being made a slave!) is the edited-down (running 71 rather than 94 minutes!) English-dubbed version released in the U.S. by RKO. The result, at least, is good-looking (featuring lavish sets as befits the country that virtually invented the "Kolossal") despite the rather dark print at hand!
Obviously, however, the film under review does not stand up to comparisons with the 3¼-hours SPARTACUS (1960) and should not really be since the two are so different in tone and approach. For one thing, there is no gladiatoral action(!) in this case, but rather the arena contains a pool in which a ship is anchored! On it, a dance (with tied-up slaves as props!) is staged
before lions are unleashed upon them – which are eventually repelled by the hero's timely intervention! Leading lady Ludmilla Tcherina is rather underused throughout though, being foremost a renowned dancer, at least the obligatory routines in this vein are classier than usual for the genre! Thinking Spartacus killed her father, Tcherina starts out by hating Girotti but, predictably, falls for him regardless. Gianna Maria Canale, then, plays the daughter of an altogether ineffectual Crassus – a femme fatale who occasionally makes Spartacus stray from his mission
before the cries of a slave receiving an off-screen whipping brings him back to his senses! As for the Peter Ustinov figure from the later Hollywood rendition, he is here treated as an out-and-out villain!
The reasonably stylish film (bearing the mark of its maker, who happens to be Canale's own real-life husband!) also contrives 3 other well-handled action sequences: the slaves' dive to freedom, their sneak attack on the Romans (in which the latter army's tents are set on fire), and the standard open-field clash in which the hero ultimately falls (again, being of a more modest pedigree, there is no mass crucifixion this time around!). For the record, the Italians would return to this theme 10 years later with THE SLAVE aka SON OF SPARTACUS with their most popular muscleman, Steve Reeves, in the lead.