31 March 2010 | dinky-4
"Gladiator" -- yes / "Magnificent" -- no
Those sword-and-sandal movies of the early 60s may not have scored particularly well in such areas as acting, dialog, and characterization, but they frequently offered lively and colorful doses of entertainment. "The Magnificent Gladiator" comes toward the end of this cycle and while it isn't out and out bad, it seems tired, anemic, and bland.
Mark Forest, who doesn't appear to have his heart in this project, is too easy-going a hero to engage our interest. He never seems sufficiently troubled or challenged and he's never subjected to one of those tortuous tests-of-strength which are often a staple in these endeavors. What's more, he's never seen completely bare-chested, instead choosing to wear an outfit which has leather straps crossing his upper torso.
The villains also register as lightweight threats. Paolo Gozlino plays the ambitious nobleman who wants to become Caesar and Jolanda Modio appears as his conniving girlfriend, but they offer only token amounts of evil. Marilu Tolo provides the requisite but quite forgettable "love interest." Like Ms. Modio, she looks and dresses less like a Roman aristocrat and more like a Victoria's Secret model. Fortunately, there are none of those annoying, wise-cracking midgets in the cast but we get instead an annoying, wise-cracking shepherd who comes across as a combination of Jerry Lewis and Bugs Bunny and whose every pronouncement is unaccountably greeted with gales of indulgent laughter from those around him. Franco Cobianchi takes acting honors, such as they are, in the dual role of Caesar and his look-like. He, at least, seems to be enjoying himself.
Production values are quite thin with all of ancient Rome apparently consisting of just three or four rooms and maybe three dozen citizens.