Sunday, 10 July 2011

Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964)

If you’re anticipating an accurate historical account of the slave revolt against the Romans led by Spartacus then you may Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (Gli invincibili dieci gladiatori) a disappointment. But if you’re a true peplum fan then historical accuracy is certainly not what you’re expecting. You’re expecting silly campy fun, which this movie delivers.

It was apparently one of series of films featuring the titular ten gladiators. In this film a young gladiator finds himself pitted in a fight to the death with his own father. His father begs his son to kill him so that the son’s life will be saved but instead the struggle triggers off a rebellion by a whole school of gladiators.

Because of their unsporting refusal to kill each other the ten gladiators find themselves unemployed. They take to the road and encounter a group of bandits attacking a senator’s daughter and her retinue. They rescue her, which earns them the gratitude of Senator Varro. Varro is however not a very nice man. In fact he’s a particularly brutal master and his ill-treatment of his slaves has resulted in a revolt. A group of his slaves, under the leadership of Spartacus, has taken to the hills and are now being hunted as bandits.

The ten gladiators find themselves in the middle but their sympathies are clearly with Spartacus although their situation is complicated by the fact that their leader has fallen in love with the senator’s daughter.

There’s plenty of action and director Nick Nostro delivers some rather impressive visual set-pieces, especially the scene with the gladiators being crucified by one arm. There are also quite a few visually witty moments.

Helga Liné could always be relied on to add some glamour to movies such as this. The acting in general is pretty much what you expect in a peplum.

For those who like that sort of thing there are massive quantities of half-naked beefcake. Our ten muscle-bound heroes are shirtless for the entire movie.

I saw it as part of the Mill Creek Warriors 50-movie pack of public domain peplum titles. The presentation is fairly standard for this company - the movie is pan-and-scanned and dubbed in English and picture quality is less than stunning but when the price works at around 40 cents a movie there’s no cause for complaint. And there’s very little chance we’ll ever see any of these movies looking much better than this since most don’t survive in any better form.

It’s an entertaining mix of action, comedy and romance and fans of this genre should be well satisfied.


venoms5 said...

There's a widescreen version available of this one, D, on Italian DVD. I have it, but Italian language only. Whoever started that rumor about most of these movies being lost forever and only these battered and washed out prints being all that remains simply isn't true. There's dozens upon dozens of these movies available on mostly non English friendly DVDs from Italy, Spain, France and Germany. The Italian discs are usually a lot cheaper than those from other European countries.

This was a good trilogy of movies, I thought. TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS was the first one I saw on TV when I was a kid. It's played for laughs, pretty much. The first film is a prequel and starts off as a light hearted romp and suddenly turns brutal during the last half. There's another gladiator trilogy that's as good if not better than this one from Michele Lupo--REVENGE OF SPARTACUS (1964), SEVEN SLAVES AGAINST THE WORLD (1964) and SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS (1965)--all with Roger Browne and two each with Gordon Mitchell and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.

dfordoom said...

V, I'm definitely going to have to chase up some widescreen DVDs of some of these movie since I'm quite a fan of the peplum genre. Finding DVDs that are both widescreen and English-friendly is the big problem.