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Having only see Sergio Leone's The Colossus of Rhodes in a panned-and-scanned TV version before, it's surprising how much more enjoyable the film is when you see it in its proper `TotalScope' ratio. Where Leone's previous peplum, 1959's dreary and underfunded version of The Last Days of Pompeii, looked like it could have been made by any one of a hundred unimaginatively anonymous Italian directors, Colossus always looks terrific, with a mastery of the widescreen that Leone would take even further in his Westerns: this being a particularly well-funded epic, rather than the huge close-ups and empty space of later films, it's filled with people as if the producers are afraid to leave any corner of the frame without something to look at, but it wears it well. You also get to see the redressed Roman barracks set where Chuck met Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur again, here redressed as a royal mausoleum!
It's a genuinely spectacular affair offering pretty much everything you could want from a peplum - not much in the way of musclemen but plenty of corrupt rulers, rebels and conspiracies, torture in the dungeons and the arena, the spectacular destruction of a city in a natural disaster and imported American star Rory Calhoun imitating Victor Mature every time he laughs in profile, which is surprisingly often considering the misfortunes that befall him. Along the way Leone throws in plenty of playful riffs on Hitchcock, with the Colossus itself providing plenty of visual homages to both The Saboteur and North by Northwest. Not a major work by any means but a surprisingly enjoyable one.
While this is the American release version rather than the slightly longer Italian version, it's still a good DVD, with a good 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, informative audio commentary by Leone biographer Christopher Frayling and the US theatrical trailer.
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Bob SalterTOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Feb 2011
"The Colossus of Rhodes" is now best known as being the directorial debut of the irrepressible Sergio Leone, although he did reportedly take over the duties from Mario Bonnard when he became seriously ill during the production of "The Last Days of Pompeii" (58). The film is generically part of the Peplum films, which were the muscle men films made in Italy after the success of "Hercules" (58). The muscular American bodybuilder Steve Reeves became a major actor in these films. This film contains a large number of similarly muscular men, which plants it firmly in the Peplum category. This DVD is marketed as a "camp cult classic", and it does have a case, although it is strictly lightweight compared to "The Conqueror" which had John Wayne resplendent in droopy moustache playing the great Genghis Khan. Another bit of advertising bills it as `one of the seven wonders of the cult-movie world', which may be stretching it, and I am also interested to know what the other six were? Surely Ed Wood gets in there somewhere! Perhaps the original advertising was even funnier, which had it as `a truly colossal motion picture". I don't think so!
I won't give too much of the plot away, because I didn't really follow it anyway. It all got a bit confused at times! A lot most certainly did happen, as it runs over a hefty two hours. Darios An Athenian war hero, played by the obligatory American Rory Calhoun goes to Rhodes for a nice restful holiday in 280BC. He doesn't get it, even though this was way before Club 18-30 invaded the island! The silly billy manages to get involved in some convoluted plot to prevent a tyrant from trying to take over Rhodes with some dastardly Phoenicians, and then the world no doubt. All in a days work for Rory!Read more ›
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Greek soldier Darios and his uncle Lissipu visit the Island of Rhodes, to see the enormous colossus statue of Apollo been erected to guard its harbour. While there he unwilling becomes part of a rebellion lead by Peliocles to over throw the tyrannical King Serse.
This was Sergio Leone's directorial début, even though he did direct the majority of Last Days of Pompei after original director Mario Bonnard fell ill with liver problems. Leone was a master film maker when it came to Westerns and here he shows none of the style he would show three years later with A Fistful of Dollars but this is still a well made and enjoyable entry in the Sword and Sandal genre.
American actor Rory Calhoun plays Darios, he doesn't really have the heroic looks we are accustomed to in these Peplum movies. I would've prefered if maybe someone like Richard Harrison or Steve Reeves was given the lead. The Darios character is well written and has no interest in the rebellion until after he is captured by King Serse's soldiers after been mistaken as one of the rebels and not till he witnesses the torture does he decide to fight back. French actor Georges Marchal is impressive as Peliocles and his rebels include Mimmo Palmara and Angel Aranda. The villains are played by Roberto Camardiel in a rare role as cruel King Serse but he doesn't really do much and San Conrado Martin as his traitorous second in command.
The impressive sets reminded me of one of those large scale big budget Hollywood epics and the statue of Apollo looks like it was used as inspiration for Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts. We are treated to numerous well staged action scenes which are given a more heroic and dramatic feel due to Angelo Francesco Lavagnino's score.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Visually Beautiful Italian "Sword And Sandal", Epic With An Oddly Cast Rory Calhoun24 July 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Director Sergio Leone is of course much better known for his famous westerns of the 1960's and '70's however what we have here is his first official directing effort in one of the bigger budgeted films in the early 1960's cycle of "Epic", productions. Usually set in ancient Greece or Rome, here the setting is the beautiful island of Rhodes with the plot revolving around the famous statue or "Colossus" that stood astride the harbour in ancient times and after its premature demise courtesy of an earthquake became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. "The Colossus of Rhodes", has been the Italian epic I have long wanted to see and Warner Bros. have done a wonderful job on presenting it now in all its original glory on DVD for the first time. While certainly not on the level of "Ben-Hur", "Cleopatra", or "The Fall of the Roman Empire", in terms of overall scope and majesty, it does still have much to offer the viewer. The film is rich in beautiful cinematography highlighting attractive locations photographed in Spain, stunning sets and costumes, excellent swordplay and plenty of the necessary intrigue, and best of all the eye catching recreation of the legendary giant statue known through history as the "Colossus of Rhodes". Misplaced or I should say also miscast, leading man Rory Calhoun continued the early 1960's tradition of Italian and Spanish film makers importing second string American leading men to star in their epic productions in the hope of widening their film's distribution potential. However Calhoun, best remembered as a cowboy star in the 1950's looks badly out of place in the setting of ancient Rhodes and he defiantely doesn't look comfortable in the Toga-like costumes he wears in the story. I still feel original choice for the role, John Derek who excelled as Joshua in Cecil De Mille's classic "The Ten Commandments", would have been better suited for the part of Greek Military hero Darios who gets caught up in the intrigue of ancient Rhodes just prior to the devastating earthquake that toppled the world famous statue at the film's fiery climax.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Leone's greatest work! Not really, but still worthwhile...16 July 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
For the longest time, I never thought I would actually see this film. This is Sergio Leone's first official film as director, and it's been notoriously hard to find in any home video format. I was plesantly surprised when I found out that it was officially released, so I rented it immediately.
Leone started as an assistant director on many Hollywood productions that shot in Italy in the 1950's, and many of them were part of the Roman epic cycle. This film follows in that vain (even though it's on Rhodes, not Rome), and it's a decent "Roman" epic film, nothing more. You would have to be clairvoyant to think that Leone would go on to direct masterpieces after this film, though. Some of the action scenes are awkwardly choreographed, and much of the acting is rather formless (the film has that awkward dubbing best known in Italian films), or it's so over the top. Many have said Rory Calhoun was miscast here, but I thought he was OK. He wasn't great, but it didn't bother me that much. He's kind of endearingly goofy, like he knows he really shouldn't be in the film, but he's enjoying himself anyway. The original leading man, John Derek, was fired early in the production because Leone was convinced that he was trying to steal his job (John Derek did go on to be a director, but his films were horrible). It's kind of fun to see Lea Masari in this film. The previous year she played Anna, the woman who disappears in L'avventura. Maybe this is where Anna ended up.
There is some good here. Leone's framing is pretty good, the crowd scenes are well handled, the plot twists are surprisingly good for a film like this, the inside of the Collusus is cool, and the film is never boring. It's definitely worth watching once, just don't expect the beauty and mastery of Leone's best films. It's not a great debut or anything, but if you're a Leone fan (like me), you should check it out nevertheless.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Leone's roots31 July 2007
Robert C. Cumbow
- Published on Amazon.com
COLOSSUS OF RHODES provides a good look at Sergio Leone's roots--and the roots of the Italian Western--in the peplum (or "sword and sandal") genre that dominated popular Italian film in the late 50s and early 60s, just before the western boom. There is little in this film to suggest the master stylist that Leone would become just a few years later. But it's one of the better peplum films, with high production values that look especially good on this transfer. And there is one delightful shot that seems to prefigure, in a comic way, Leone's later attraction to extreme closeups of eyeballs.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
superior spear and sandal30 April 2008
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On the commentary that comes with this DVD, film historian Christopher Frayling has many interesting insights, but he finds fault with the number of subplots in Colossus of Rhodes. I find this puzzling, because isn't one frequent complaint about the peplum genre that the stories are overly simple and too many are just alike? Part of the success of The Colossus of Rhodes is because of its thorough detail, I think. It might take more than one viewing to understand the intricacies but isn't that one reason we buy DVDs? This is not at all a typical 'lots of action--no sense' entry into the genre, much as I enjoy those. Here are some of the selling points of Colossus of Rhodes: 1. Two tyrants for the price of one! (One is an enjoyable oaf, the other is quite cruel but has a clever wit.) 2. Two excellent leading men! Rory Calhoun does well enough;Georges Marchal is great as the leader of the underground. 3. Two contrasting leading ladies, both comfortable in costume and not unpleasant on the eyes. 4. An absolutely great music score, at times showing the influence of Ravel, especially in dance sequences. The 'Colossus' music has a wonderfully ominous metallic sound, totally in keeping with the nefarious designs of the villains who enjoy displaying the statue's cutting edge technology.
The plot of Colossus of Rhodes works as well as it does because it includes typical elements, for instance, the revolt of the oppressed against tyranny, and clever additions such as the machinations of the wicked against the wicked. AND, the Colossus itself is spectacular! Scenes of the fighting taking place on its shoulder are indeed similar to Hitchcock's suspense sequences from North By Northwest.
Mr. Frayling thinks Colossus is more a pretty good warm-up for 'better' works that the director Sergio Leone would do later. Actually, a much better approach is to compare Colossus with other Peplum films and then realize how much more intelligent and less cheesy it is than others of the genre. Leone did a great job with it. It's 2 hrs. and 8 minutes long and there's not a dull moment anywhere.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Big Rhodes Show !!!1 Mar 2013
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First up, a confession. I take a rather guilty pleasure in watching those quasi-biblical/historical/egyptian/vaguely mespotamian epics where they spend all the money on the scenery and costumes and then utilise the woodenest of actors, and all those tiny models for the effects. NO CGI, just inventive human make-do!
That being said, this film pleases on all those levels. Perhaps not as "camp" as "The Prodigal" (see my review for the salacious details), but this is an epic romp nonetheless. If you've read my review of the aforementioned movie, then you know that the wardrobe for that production featured literally thousands of tassels. Here it's serious fringes that adorn the edges of just about everything.
If you are a lover of fine masculine legs, then you are in for a real smorgasbord here! With the minor exception of the old King, ALL the other men's Greek(?)costumes are short, ...VERY short; ...and the men are certainly men too, ..hairy chests and all! NONE of those over-waxed and scrapped steroided pretty-boy clones you see passed off as masculine specimens now.
Rory Calhoun wears a never-ending series of smart little cocktail numbers, ...one in particular exposing quite an amount of his naked hips and butt-cheeks. He always seems to have a new "frock" for every occasion, ....even having escaped to a rebel camp in rags he then immediately appears in a perfectly clean and neatly pressed little outfit trimmed with Greek embroidery of sorts. Where did he get it from? Everybody else is in rags, and I didn't see him bring any equivalent of an ancient Greek suitcase, ...but of course this is the movies folks!
Mention must also be made of his natty selection of THE campest "ancient" boots that accompany each ensemble too! Oh, and I did like the way that each outfit for all the men came with its own neat little colour co-ordinated pair of Speedos to preserve modesty in those wrestling/stunt scenes too!
Calhoun's hair, ...chock full of that-greasy-kid-stuff, is slicked back in a strictly modern for the time style with absolutely no concessions to period at all, and he goes through the entire movie like a big kid in some sort of Disneyland ancient world themed ride.
He's given TWO leading ladies, ....one a nice little rebel girl who pines for him while he's in the vile clutches of the other. Mind you ,shy she might be in love, but she rides a horse like a damn valkyrie at a breakneck gallop! (Yes, it's her stunt-double of course but just watch her go!)
His other scheming inamorata is played by some little piece (Lea Massari)surely picked up from the local lumber yard. I assure you that you will never see such sheer acting inadequacies exposed so fully as when this little wannabee only just avoids the termites! She's supposed to be the double-crossing, manipulative man-eating temptress, but her charms are about as sexy as last week's left-over lasagna. Still, she gets to wear some nice female drag, and dies right on cue, if totally unconvincingly.....
Of course our hero is then left free to return to that little rebel ripping-rider for the credits! (Sigh!)
The story gets a bit convoluted somewhere towards the end, with people swapping sides and suddenly doing unexpected things out of character with what has gone on previously, but don't worry if you feel you're losing the plot. I assure you that you are NOT the only one! Director Sergio Leone seems to have only had a very tentative grip on it right from the start!
There are more than a few gaping holes in that somewhat sketchy "plot" too, but it DOES have all the expected standards for this genre.
Let's tick 'em off! Yes, there's the obligatory dance sequence with writhing servant girls/temple attendants in veils and such; ....yes there's the banquet scene with dancing/juggling entertainment; ...yes there's the sacrifice to the gods in the huge OTT pagan temple complete with huge fierce looking statues, fire, flames and smoke; ....yes there's the torture scene, this one involving dripping acid(?) and an very serious attempt to induce major tinnitus! You won't believe how this is done!(I cracked up at this point! Quasimodo anyone?) ....the victim emerges bleeding profusely from the ears, but seems to carry on with the rest of the movie without any loss of hearing so it's all good. Still, an interesting departure from the usually employed torture methods.
Yes there's the assassination of the king; ...yes there's the Colosseum-type arena where the rebels are pitted against outrageous odds and animals. Here it's jumping over the blades attached to the axles of a fast chariot, while chained in close proximity to burning brambles, or being suspended over a lion pit as knives are thrown cutting your bonds to allow you to fall. (As I said, A+ here for inventive executions and tortures..) Yes, there's the earthquake with shaking camera and lots of those tiny wooden block buildings falling down on people; ....and there are the usual compliment of disposable secondary characters, recognisable instantly, that are simply provided to die on cue, usually saving the hero.
The Colossus, ...of which only the feet and calves are "actual", ...the rest is of course a small model, but the inside looks OK, designed by a da Vinci lookalike, (who dies of course!), and it contains a huge collection of ingenious levers and mechanics that operate all sorts of devices, ...some a great way from the statue itself. There's mention of the sighting of the approach of a vast Phoenician invading fleet, but what happens to it we never see, or hear, because right on cue, a violent storm and earthquake occur, interrupting the whole narrative, providing the film's ending, and totally ignoring any settling of the issues of the prior plot line. The baddies all die, most of the goodies survive, ...except the cute little bloke with his hairy chest. Shame! And of course the earthquake spells the end for the big bronze Oscar, and all the double-crossing conspirators too . Talk about a deus-ex-machina!
Again, you can tell I loved this. Maybe not quite as much as seeing Lana Turner sashay about in "The Prodigal", ...or Joan Collins chew the scenery in "Land of the Pharaohs" while wearing purple makeup, but The Colossus is a fun, fairly fast paced romp through highly spurious "ancient times" for those who like their history hysterical. Never a dull moment, that's for sure!