Monday, May 19, 2014


As mounted warriors slaughter all those around her, young Myra goes into shock, desperately exhorting the dead to wake up. The wandering prophet Zoroaster finds her and prays to the Sun God to bring her back to sanity then takes her with him to Nineveh as he preaches in the town square. He is promptly arrested by King Sardanapolos for treason but when young Prince Samos, the king's younger brother, takes a liking to Myra, she becomes his mistress and Zoroaster is freed but sent in exile to the mountains. Samos is about to be made king of Babylon, which was conquered by Nineveh, but jealousy over Myra causes the brothers to clash, and the wicked Arbaces of Babylon plays on that to get Samos to lead Babylonian warriors against Nineveh. An oracle tells Arbaces that as long as the Tigris River stays within its course, his victory is certain, and nothing could possibly cause the river to move, right?  As Shakespeare’s Macbeth has taught us, however, oracles are tricky, and when a huge storm causes flooding and the river overflows its banks, all bets are off.

There aren't enough shirtless studs here for this to qualify as a muscleman movie (hell, there aren't any as far as I could see), but as low-budget Italian action epic, it works very well. The narrative is clear and has just enough intrigue to make it fun to follow. I have no idea if any of this is grounded in history; Nineveh and Babylon are both in the Bible, there was an Iranian priest named Zoroaster, and one secondary character is named Hammurabi which is the name of a Babylonian king—but does it really matter? American actor Howard Duff brings some understated gravitas to the role of Sardanapolos, and Luciano Marini (pictured) is a handsome-enough Samos. The battle scenes are so-so, but the climactic flood destruction is quite impressive, even though much of it was clearly done with miniatures. Interestingly, one major character gets killed off earlier than you would expect. Recommend for the 60s epic fan. [DVD]

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