Sunday, October 4, 2009


Director - Richard Pottier 1961
Cast: Roger Moore (Romulus), Mylene Demongeot (Rea), Folco Lulli (King Tazio), Francis Blanche (Mezio), and with the special participation of Rossana Schiaffino (Venus) and Jean Marais (Mars),Giorgia Moll (Lavinia), Scilla Gabel (Dusia), Marino Mase (Lino), Luisa Mattioli (Silvia), Nietta Zocchi (Ersilia), Dina De Santis (Marzia), Claude Conty (Tarquinio), Walter Barnes (Stilicone), Dada Gallotti (Flaminia), Lino Basile, Peter Dobric, Mariangela Giordano, Aldo Cecconi, Franco Abbina, Toni Basile, Niksa Stefanini.
Screenplay by Stephen Garrett, Frank Gregory
Directed by Frank Gregory
Recorded on Westrex Electric System
Italian Writer Credit: Edoardo Anton, Carlo Infascelli
Dialog Marc Gilbert Sauvajon
Co-Director in Yugoslavia Enrico Bomba
Director of Photography Adalberto Albertini
Music by Carlo Rustichelli
Music Publisher Nazionalmusic
Film Editor Enzo Alabiso, Yvonne Martin
Production Designers Rene Renoux, Pierre Tyberghein, Lamberto Giovagnoli
Costumes Adriana Spadaro
Production Manager Gino Rossi
Master of Arms Enzo Musumeci Greco
Makeup Faliero Maggetti, Giuseppe Peruzzi
Hairdresser Salvatore Cotroneo
Sound by Dial Press
Executive Producer Enrico Bomba
C.F.P.I. (Paris) FI.C.I.T. (Rome)
Not credited on U.S. print: Alexander Salkind, Dubrava (Zagreb).
Prod. Reg. 2519
1954's film version of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS was such a success that it probably not only inspired the making of this slightly more literal version of the tale, but also the 1965 Italian Western SETTE PISTOLE PER I MACGREGOR (U.S.: SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACGREGORS). Now THE RAPE OF THE SABINES was not a musical, but it also turned the story of a group of men abducting a group of women into a romantic comedy.
While this version of the Ancient Roman story kept the central idea that an almost entirely male city acquired the mothers of their society from a neighboring kingdom, very little else of the tale was. For while the title could be used for its "classical" status, a movie in which a hero justified the forcible subjugation of unwilling women would be hardly considered acceptable entertainment, even in the Europe of 1961. As it was, the idea that King Romulus hid a mistress in a cave outside of the city, and then spurned her after deciding that he now preferred a Sabine Princess was sexually candid enough for the times. Naturally, French audiences also got fleeting topless female nudity in their version.
As Stilicone, one of the three ambassadors sent by Romulus to the Sabine King Tazio, Walter Barnes was again cast for the brutish strength which had helped him become a successful football player. The ambassadors were sent to negotiate for some Sabine brides, which Tazio refused to provide, as he deeply wished for the end of Rome. Not surprisingly, the three ambassadors ended up becoming romantically involved with a trio of Sabine women frolicking in a nearby river. This plot development signaled the solution to a modern telling of this tale of abduction; the abducted women turn the situation against their abductors - staging a LYSISTRATA-like protest until Romulus came to an agreement of terms by which they became the brides of Rome.
There were only three real action scenes in this film. The first two were at the beginning showing the outlaw ways of the early Romans. In the first, they stole nearby sheep and then beat off the retaliation of the owners. Next, a Phoencian ship refused to pay a landing tax, for which the Romans set the boat aflame.
The final action scene occured when the fathers and brothers of the kidnapped women attacked to free them. Even though these soldiers were told that their women had become contented with their new husbands, the armed men attacked, mostly in an attempt to avenge their honor. The battle was stopped when the women threw themselves between the combatants, and also when King Tazio discovered that the city was celebrating their first birth. Considering how poorly staged these fights were, it was a good thing that the movie was more concerned with comedy and sex. Director Richard Pottier, who was born in Austria in 1906 but may have been French, wasn't able to enfuse much excitement into his 1959 co-directing effort with Ferdinando Baldi, DAVID E GOLIA (U.S.: DAVID AND GOLIATH), either. And his 1958 comedy TABARIN appeared to be dull as well.
Roger Moore made a dashing Romulus, but wasn't particularly convincing as the leader of a near barbaric tribe. Here, Romulus inflated his stature by telling all that he was a son of Mars, which turned out to be a real possibility when statues of Mars and Venus came to life over the hero sleeping in the temple. The two gods argue over the conduct of this mortal, with Venus emphasizing the importance of love. As the movie ended, it seemed that Venus won out.
Aside from the fantastic touch of having the gods showing up to offer a sleeping Romulus advice - particularly with Jean Marais' presence bringing to mind the work of director Jean Cocteau, the most impressive element of this movie was Scilla Gabel. As Dusia, a Phoenician woman stranded by a Roman attack on her ship, Gabel brought a believable ferocity to the role of a woman who agreed to become the hero's hidden lover. Unable to bring her into a city filled with lonely men, Romulus put this woman in a nearby cave and planned to visit her every night. Aside from finding the man attractive, the character played by Gabel hoped to become the queen of Rome when the time came when they could marry.
It was obvious from the time that our hero made his suggestion that his interest in the woman did not include marriage. Later, he became smitten with the blond Vestal Virgin Rea. Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful Mylene Demongeot was, her portrayal of Rea was off-puttingly pouty; suggesting that this King's daughter was incredibly spoilt and petulant. On the other hand, Scilla Gabel's Dusia was passionate and romantic. Our hero did her wrong by casting her aside for Rea, so her effort to aid the attacking Sabines by showing them a secret entry into Rome made emotional sense. The sympathy she generated was at odds with the filmmakers seeming attempt to have the audience rooting for Romulus and Rea to get together.
The main obstacle to the marriage of Romulus and Rea was that she was consecrated to Jupiter. It would be blasphemy for her to marry a man, even a man supposed to be the son of Mars. The solution to this was for them to run off - which sort-of negated the main point of the story; which was Romulus' desire to found Rome. Even though he said that his work was finished and that now was the time for a new king, leaving a city which had been presented as a shining hope for people seeking a new future was confusing. If Rome was going to be a solution to many of the problems of that time, where could this couple run off to for their happy ending? And the joke Romulus made about telling everyone that as a son of a god he was taken up to heaven didn't cover up the reversal of the story's main thrust.
As Venus, Rossana Schiaffino brought more loveliness to a movie already boasting Mylene Demongeot, Scilla Gabel, and Giorgia Moll. Along with old favorites like Franco Lulli, Jean Marais and Walter Barnes, there are many welcomed faces to be found in this movie. Unfortunately, the material wasn't really worth their efforts, but they would all appear in worse movies.
Roger Moore's efforts, however, were amply rewarded for it was during the making of this movie that he met his future wife, and the mother of his children. Luisa Mattioli. She played the woman with whom Walter Barnes fell in love. Reportedly, friends of Moore's wife, the singer Dorothy Squires, told her not to let him go to Italy alone. as he was obviously not happy in his marriage. But she had some singing engagements to honor. The fact that Moore was married and that Mattioli was Roman Catholic made the beginnings of their relationship a bit difficult, but eventually the legal wranglings were smoothed out.
Unfortunately, this second marriage reportedly ended in 1997, when Moore took up with another woman.
(Released on Unicorn Home Video.)

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