7 March 2008 | Bunuel1976
WAR GODS OF BABYLON (Silvio Amadio, 1962) **
Dreary peplum with a second-rate cast and crew; as often happened in this genre, an American actor (in this case, Howard Duff) was recruited for the lead with the only notable in the Italian ranks being Arnoldo Foa' (appearaing here as a holy man). Amadio is perhaps best-known for the sexy giallo AMUCK! (1972); incidentally, the scenes requiring special effects were handled by the versatile if erratic Antonio Margheriti this one is climaxed, as were a few other entries in the genre, by a natural disaster (with the prototype being THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII: by the way, I should be watching the 1926 and 1959 versions of that popular and oft-filmed tale during the month-long Epic/Historical films schedule). The typically sturdy score, then, is the work of two distinguished composers Carlo Savina and Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.
The excuse for a plot that would lead to that reasonably-staged final spectacle the city of Niniveh, having shunned the gods, is destroyed in a flood sees a couple of royal brothers (the elder, a stoic but ill-at-ease Duff, rules Niniveh itself while his bland sibling is assigned the province of the once-mighty Babylon) falling over a young girl, the sole survivor of a decimated people from the mountains who arrives at Niniveh in the company of prophet-like Foa'. Besides, an ambitious Babylonian general deliberately creates discord among the two cities for his own personal gain though he's eventually routed by another officer loyal to the young king (slain by the general and making it look like it was Duff's handiwork!). Incidentally, having these Biblical cities for backdrops, necessitates that characters get saddled with such unpronounceable names as Sardanapalus and Zoroaster! For the record, the English translation of the film's original title is THE SEVEN FLAMES OF ASSUR the latter being the God worshipped throughout the Assyrian Empire, and the former a reference to a rite relating to the one-week period of preparation which a new ruler has to undergo prior to his official appointment (which is then followed by three days of festivities wherein, among other things, a lion hunt is organized).