Friday, October 19, 2012

The Colossus of Rhodes

Directed by Sergio Leone and written by Leone, Luciano Chitarrini, Ennio de Concini, Carlo Gualtieri, Luciano Martino, Ageo Savioli, Cesare Seccia, and Duccio Tessari, Il Colosso di Rodi (The Colossus of Rhodes) is the story of a Greek military hero who becomes part of a rebellious group of soldiers to overthrow a tyrant king in the year of 280 B.C. The film marks Leone’s first time as a credited director as he would helm a sword-and-sandals film that bears a lot of the attributes of the film epics of the late 50s and early 1960s. Starring Rory Calhoun, Lea Massari, Georges Marchal, and Angel Aranda. Il Colosso di Rodi is a good and exciting film from Sergio Leone.

Arriving to the island of Rhodes is a Greek military hero named Dario (Rory Calhoun) who is there to visit his uncle Lissipu (George Rigaud) during a ceremony to unveil the statue of Apollo to guard its harbor. At a party held by its king Serse (Roberto Camardiel), Dario meets a beautiful woman named Dalia (Lea Massari) as he learns about a rebellion led by Peliocles (Georges Marchal) to overthrow the king. During Dario’s attempt to woo Dalia, Dario comes across a tomb of kings where he accidentally enters a room where Serses and his second-in-command Thar (Conrado San Martin) is having a meeting about an alliance with Phoenicians which would be a threat to Greece. After an encounter with the rebels and learning about what they want to do, Dario attempts to leave Rhodes only to realize that no one is to leave the island as he’s believed to be a suspect in the rebellion.

Dario decides to help the rebels in carrying a message to the Greeks only to learn about the true usage of the Apollo statue as Dario, Peliocles, and many others are captured. When one of the rebels in Karos (Angel Aranda) learns what Thar is trying to do as he smuggled a Phoenicians as slaves, he helps free Peliocles, Dario, and the rebels as they escape. Realizing that the statue is the main weapon, Peliocles wants to head an attack in order to control it and free the slaves under the statue. Dario however, believes that just going to the statue will be trouble as he goes on a reconnaissance mission to find out how to open the statue as he get Dalia’s help to enter where he learns about its mechanisms.

Suddenly, he’s trapped as he learns more of Thar’s plans as he barely escapes the statue as he returns to the rebels’ hideout only to learn that many of them are captured with the exception of Karos and his sister Mirte (Mabel Karr). Learning what Thar plans to do, Dario creates a plan to keep the rebellion going only for something that will change the face of the island.

The film is essentially the story of a Greek man visiting his uncle where he learns about a rebellion occurring in this island where he eventually takes part of the island after being suspected as a spy. It’s a premise that is typical of the swords-and-sandals genre where the first half of the film is about this man who comes from a different world where he learns about not just this rebellion against a tyrant king but also a coup from the king’s second-in-command to take control. It’s that half where it takes a while for the story to be really engaging while the second half becomes more exciting once Dario takes part in the rebellion where he learns about what is going on as there’s also a few twists on the way that would impact his time with the rebels.

Sergio Leone’s direction is definitely engaging at times though he seems out of step in the scenes where there’s a lot of parties and meetings around where there’s not much going on other than to establish the characters and situations. While Leone’s use of the widescreen format does have him create some entrancing compositions that would be a testament to his later work in the years to come. The film does become more interesting in the second half due to the action as it includes a scene with chariots as well as a lot of extravagant set pieces in the action that shows the kind of ambition Leone wanted. Even as the third act features a climax that plays to the fates of everyone although it’s really more of a rehash of what he did in his previous film The Last Days of Pompeii. Overall, Leone does make a film that is exciting at times despite an underwhelming first half.

Cinematographer Antonio L. Ballestros does nice work with the photography to play out the extravagance of the party scenes as well as the film‘s colorful daytime exteriors along with a more entrancing look for its nighttime scenes. Editor Eraldo da Rama does some excellent work in the editing by creating some rhythmic cuts for the film‘s action scenes. Set decorator Ramiro Gomez does some spectacular work with the set pieces to create the lavish sets to create the world of 280 B.C. Rhodes.

Costume designer Vittorio Rossi does some wonderful work with the costumes from the robes the men wear to the dresses that Dalia wears. The film’s music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino is terrific for its bombastic orchestral score to play up the film’s suspense and action.

The film’s cast is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features some noteworthy performances from George Rigaud as Dario’s uncle Lissipu, Felix Fernandez as Dalia’s father Carete, Angel Aranda as the young rebel Koros, Mabel Karr as Koros’ sister Mirte, and Roberto Camardiel as King Serses. Georges Marchal is pretty good as the rebel leader Peliocles while Conrado San Martin is wonderful as the villainous Thar. Lea Massari is quite good as Dalia as she falls for Dario although her character isn’t as developed throughout the film as well as what happens to her character in the third act. Finally, there’s Rory Calhoun in a terrific performance as Dario where he displays a bit of charisma to the role as well as the abilities to play a leader despite some issues with the script that has him emoting where it doesn’t really work.

Il Colosso di Rodi is a fine debut film from Sergio Leone that does bear some of the visual traits that his fans will enjoy. For a swords-and-sandal film, it’s quite entertaining despite a somewhat weak and tedious first half that takes a long time to establish characters and plot points. Yet, it gets carried by a strong second half that is exciting once the fighting starts to happen. In the end, Il Colosso di Rodi is a stellar film from Sergio Leone.

Sergio Leone Films: The Last Days of Pompeii - A Fistful of Dollars - For a Few Dollars More - The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly - Once Upon a Time in the West - Duck, You Sucker! - Once Upon a Time in America

Related: Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone - The Auteurs #16: Sergio Leone

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