Inspired by grand opera and Italy's imperialist victory in the Libyan War (1911-12), the Italian movie industry produced dozens of historical epics in the period just before World War I. The most influential and successful... more » of these was Cabiria, the visually spectacular film which set the standard for the big-budget feature-length movies around the world and opened the way for D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. De Mille. The story concerns a girl-Cabiria-who is separated from her parents during the Punic Wars in the Third Century B.C. In her odyssey through the world of ancient Rome, she encounters the eruption of Mt. Etna, capture by pirates, the barbaric splendor of Carthage, human sacrifice and Hannibal crossing the Alps. With meticulous care given to costume and set design, Cabiria was shot in North Africa, Sicily and the Italian Alps.« less
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 01/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What really astonishes about Cabiria is that it was made in 1914. Technically it appears to be far superior to most films from this 'early silent' period. The story is interesting if somewhat complex and the acting is naturalistic. There are some amazing moments in this film, moments of horror, violence, comedy and genuine human emotion. At times the scenes of horror really startle because they are so unexpected in a film from 1914. The story carries the viewer far and wide over the Roman world, but does so in such a way that the epic feel does not overshadow the human drama and the complex emotions of the characters. This is a high quality DVD. The picture is fine with only a few signs of print decay. The biggest problem probably arises from the titles often being very long and rather flowery in their language, so that it is necessary to pause the DVD to read them. I have read that Cabiria was at one time shown at a length of three hours. This DVD is just over two hours. I have no doubt that this version is the most complete available, and given the variable speeds of silent films it is difficult to judge how much, if any, of the film has been lost. It would be good if there was some more detailed information, on the DVD packaging, which might clear up this issue. Furthermore I have seen stills of Cabiria which show that some prints were originally tinted. It would have been better if the film could have been restored with these original colours. These are, however, minor quibbles and do not change my decision to rate this DVD as highly as is possible."
Good precode silent, may bore some impatient viewers
Nate Goyer | Sydney, Australia | 11/30/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a silent-movie fan, so I'm patient to silent movies. Most movies made before 1920 lack fanciful camerawork, as direction was just becoming an artform. These films have a lot of wide shots, almost as if you're watching a play. "Cabiria" is one of the films that breaks the barriers of the day; panning shots begin to evolve; zoom effects created by rolling the camera to tighten the view of the acting; special effects, such as a volcano eruption that was revolutionary for it's time. "Cabiria" also raised the bar for costuming, set design and general investment in production. Kino on Video creates wonderful products and the print used on this DVD is very clean. The score is piano-based from the original 1914 score.Overall; If you are a silent fan, or if you're curious to see the films that developed the artform of film, "Cabiria" is a good investment!"
Blockbuster of 1914
S. Brand | United States | 05/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was the first complete silent movie I have ever seen, and it was fascinating to observe and ponder its making 88 years ago. Considering the limited technology in movie-making then, this movie was and is a masterpiece. It has incredible scenery and/or sets, and the costuming reflecting the ancient Carthaginian and Roman cultures is well-done, although I can see the influence of the styles of 1914 in clothing, hair, and makeup.The melodramatic acting is corny at times, but it gave rise to discussion in my family about how exaggeration was needed in silent movies to compensate for the lack of speech, which in modern movies carries a lot of weight in creating the story. The written interludes with dialogue and narration were not frequent, and therefore not tiresome, however, I often found it hard to follow the plot, which has as much to do with my unfamiliarity of the history of the period, as to uncertainty about what the acting was portraying. Nevertheless, I kept my eyes glued to the screen, following the little Roman girl Cabiria, sold to the Carthaginians to serve as a ceremonial sacrifice, later rescued to serve in the palace, and all the ensuing events surrounding her as the tides of war surge between Rome and Carthage. I discovered this movie after watching the movie, "Good Morning Babylon" which is about two young Italian men who go to America to find work, and end up meeting the film producer, D.W. Griffith. Griffith has just viewed "Cabiria" and is so overwhelmed, he throws away his current film to create one called "Intolerance" which he vows to make as good as Cabiria. In Intolerance he tries to recreate an elephant statue he had seen in Cabiria, and so while watching Cabiria, I was looking for and found those elephant statues. This historical chain of movies, from Cabiria, to Intolerance, to Good Morning Babylon, is an interesting study in itself."
A silent epic blockbuster
Marco Cagetti | Charlottesville, VA United States | 01/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cabiria was probably the most successful Italian silent movie. The scenes are still spectacular and enjoyable today. The story has several twists and surprises: volcanic eruptions, the royal palaces of Carthage, naval battles (including no less than the scientist Archimedes), and the African desert. Some of the scenes are memorable, in particular the temple of the child-eating Moloch (with a last minute rescue of Cabiria from the hungry idol).Very interestingly, there is also a muscular superhero and a larger than life diva. The superhero Maciste shows that they had hormones drugs back then too; he went on to star in many other, now hard to find movies of the era (sort of a Rambo or Terminator precursor), some of which are really enjoyable (in particular Maciste in hell). The diva, the queen Sophonisba, first appears in her palace petting a leopard, and from then on there is a series of similar (quitessentially campy) moments (including a most theatrical fainting)."
Early Masterpiece: First Historical Epic-Blockbuster
Alberto M. Barral | new york | 07/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I became interested in "Cabiria" as a ressult of watching Griffith's "intolerance" (Kino version) where an excerpt of the action on the temple of Moloch was included, and I knew then I needed to see the whole movie, which was most definitely an inspiration for the Griffith masterpiece. Cabiria is a little girl that lives with her family in the proximity of the Aetna volcano in Sicily. She undergoes a series of complex adventures as she is saved by her nurse, then kidnapped by pirates and then sold into slavery and bought by Moloch's priest with the purpose of sacrificing her in the fiery furnace at the statue of the god, which truly deserves the title of first really scary mechanical contraption in film. She is rescued by Romans Fulvio Axilla and his "Herculean" (as described by the NY Times review at the viewing at the Knickerbocker theater in NY) assistant-side kick, Maciste, both of whom her nurse encountered at the city walls. As Romans, they were spying on Carthage's defenses at this time of the Punic Wars, but it takes them no time to morph into heros willing to rescue Cabiria. However her story does not end there, and it goes through a lot more convolutions before she can return home for the happy ending. The complexity of the story can be attributed to Gabriele D'Anunzio who was the official script writer as well as the author of the typically flamboyant intertitles by Italy's "damned poet" , enfant terrible and celebrity of that time. There was also a political interest and D'Anunzio fully supported Italy's imperialist policies which were anexing territories during these years of war with the Ottoman Empire. So it was the right time to remind the Italian public, and the world at large of the brutality of ancient Carthage's religion, and the improvement that obviously came with Roman conquest. This movie is unbelievable for what it encompasses: A volcanic eruption, (where the tragedy of Cabiria begins as she is separated from her parents) a naval battle where we see Archemedes working at burning the Roman fleet with his mirrors, Hannibal crossing the alps, elephants included, and the elaborate battle scene during the siege of an ancient city. The most memorable scene is the gruesome ceremony at the temple of Moloch of the burning of the children as sacrifice for the god. The architecture influenced not only the Babylon of "Intolerance" but the principal machine in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" which looks at one point in that film remarkably close to the facade of this temple. The attention to detail throughout the movie, whether in costumes, props or architecture is superb. However what really makes the movie memorable, aside from the camera work of Segundo de Chomón, which is extraordinary for the time, is the starring of Itala Almirante-Manzini in the role of Princess, then queen, Sophonisba as the first Diva of the silver screen and Bartolomeo Pagano as the first muscle-man superhero on film as Maciste. The first time we see Sophonisba she is in a terrace, and looks like a Symbolist painting in her exquisite 19th century art nouveau jewelry and exotic dress. She is in a couch, and all is luxury and splendor around her, including her pet leopard that she caresses is a suggestive manner that encapsulates the whole concept of 19th century decadence as she runs her fingers through his tail. From that scene forward she always appears in similar attire, surrounded by fan bearing slaves, musicians and attendants, and wether she is entertaining a victorious hero, dreaming an elaborate nightmare or just looking over her terrace, she gestures dramatically and appears ready to burst into an aria every other minute. She is all of Hollywood's glamour one generation earlier and went on to a very successful movie career, and died, most fittingly, bitten by a poisonous insect during a theatrical tour in 1941 that took her to Brazil. Her death scene in "Cabiria" is worth the price of the movie. She drinks poison hidden in a bracelet, which of course she dissolves in a golden cup worth a king's ransom, that is sent to her by her husband when it looks like she will be taken prisoner by the Romans. It is at this point that she decides to free Cabiria from her cell at Moloch's temple, where she was taken again, years after her rescue, to be sacrificied. Cabiria was her slave, but Sophonisba had a disturbing dream that decided her on that course of action, and they are reconciled before Sophonisba dies in a convoluted exercise of delicate contorsions and death spasms between her couch, a difficult standing posture and her final collapse in the rug that only she could have possibly pulled off. Maciste is just as fun to look at. From the first time we see him he is showing off a magnificent physique that looks perfect in Roman clothes. He flexes his muscles at any excuse and opens the iron bars of the prison window without much trouble in what is surely the first filmed instance of this classic superhero feat, another moment of glory occurs when he thows a Carthaginian into a fiery torch at the temple of Moloch. Wether he is throwing off enemies as if they were made of cardboard or climbing a tree to get through a window at the high priest's palace, there is never a dull moment in watching this action hero, who also has a comical side, aptly demonstrated when he is locked up with Fulvio in a basement full of succulent food supplies and good wine. It's no wonder he went on to a whole career in Maciste -muscle-hero movies, which must have been the ancestors of all the sandal and sword movies that came later. This epic is an absolue must for those who love quality in film, no matter where and when it was produced; but I must say it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the epic blockbuster, full motion picture was an Italian invention, a fitting continuation of their cultural achievement in Opera."