Some films are less campy than others in this trio of histor
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 06/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There was a time where camp classics weren't exactly intentional but were every bit as enjoyable as the camp films we have now. "Historical Epics" is the fourth in Warner Home Video's "Cult Camp Classics" and at least two of these three films are actually quite good outside of the classification.
The first "The Colossus of Rhodes" was the first film that Sergio Leone took credit on as a director. Set during during the Hellenistic era before the rise of Rome, this film features cowboy b-movie star Rory Calhoun as a Greek(!) hero vacationing in Rhodes who gets pulled into an attempt to overthrow the Emperor. The centerpiece of this film a 180 foot high statue that stood astride the waterways of Rhodes and could be used as a weapon to defend the city by dumping hot molten lead on invaders or would be revolutionaries.
Featuring risable dialogue, great action sequences and impressive production design, this international production (featuring actors from Italy, Spain, America and France)features a number of stunning set pieces that hint at Leone's great Italian Westerns such as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West". The film looks quite good with an excellent commentary track by Leone biographer and film historian Christopher Frayling who covers everything from the historical context of the film (the real statue of Rhodes was believed to be about 38 feet high and overlooked the city)and the original theatrical trailer. Frayling points out the good (Leone's stunning use of the camera), the bad (often the dialogue is quite ripe)and the ugly (the overwrought performances of some of the actors)but still finds merit in the film.
Leone does a hommage to Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" and "Sabteour" particularly during the end sequence on top of the Colossus of Rhodes where there is a fight sequence. Fans of cinema will see other references to other films that Leone sneaks in to this historical epic which is still quite enjoyable both as a memorable peek into what would come later from Leone's classic films as well as the silly plot devices and dialogue.
"Land of the Pharaohs" was directed by Howard Hawks and co-written by William Faulkner(!)so how could one go wrong with this historical epic about the building of the pyramids? Joan Collins plays a Nellifer in this epic production while Jack Hawkins is the Pharaoh Cheops putting thousands to work to build is massive tomb. It's interesting because the structure of this film echoes Hawks' great western "Red River". "Pharoahs" is an excellent minor Hawks classic with an epic scale and of the three here is the least camp best film of the bunch. Collins brings the camp element to the forefront with her performance as the scheming Nellifer.
The film features Peter Bogdanovich providing a commentary. Bogdanovich doesn't think much of the film (nor did Hawks as is evident in the interview excerpts included here)but it's a pretty good historical epic with the massive spectacle and production design that one expects from the genre. If it fails to live up to Hawks best films, that could be because he was working in a genre that he wasn't totally comfortable with.
The last film included here "The Prodigal" featuring Lana Turner fits into the camp camp quie well. It apes the Cecil B. DeMille Biblical and historical epics quite well. Basically this tells the story of the prodigal son (Edmund Purdom) who falls for a pagan priestess (Turner).
Dr. Drew Casper gives a frentic and interesting commentary track that makes more of this film than is there. Casper mentions in his commentary that he feels this is a remake of Raoul Walsh's "The Wanderer" from 1926 which I've never seen. He also provides interesting biographical information on many of the actors in the film.
All the films included here look extremely good with some looking much better than others depending on the source print and its condition. Warner does an excellent job of putting this together much as they did with some of the other "Cult Camp Classics" sets in the series (the other two I purchased I haven't watched yet--I wanted to go for the set that had the Hawks and Leone films first). Some of these sets have no or minimal extras (such as a trailer only)but most have commentary tracks and all the ones here even when they aren't perfect provide background on the films. Frayling is always entertaining and does an outstanding job adding humor and has a relaxed conversational style that makes his informative commentary the best of the bunch here.
Three stars for the films with an extra star for the commentary tracks. "
Better than the title suggests
M. Smith | Washington, NC | 08/10/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Though these movies can be viewed as campy sword 'n sandle flicks, two of the three are actually pretty good. All three are in color and anamorphic 'scope, and two even have multi-track sound. The images are crisp and clear, with no sign of fading. The Colossus of Rhodes was directed by Sergio Leone, with impressive visuals and a huge cast of extras. The weakest (and most laughable) part of the film is Rory Calhoun's leading character, but the rest of the cast is fine - though the plot is overly-complex. Rory, a visiting hero from Athens, leads a slave revolt, amid treacherous plots to enslave peaceful Rhodes. Land of the Pharaohs was produced and directed by Howard Hawks and written by no less than William Faulkner. The leads are played by Jack Hawkins and Joan Collins. Hawkins portrays a king obsessed with accumulating wealth for the afterlife, along with building a tomb to house himself and the gold. Collins plays a scheming princess who wants the gold for herself. Joan Collins is far from the stereotype she became in later years, and her acting ability leaves no doubt as to why Hawkins' Pharaoh falls for her. The Prodigal, retelling the Biblical story of the prodigal son, is the only truly campy film among the three. There are lots of processions, ponderous dialog, pagan temples, and a beautiful pagan priestess to tempt the hero. Lana Turner may be beautiful, but she needs to take tempting-the-hero lessons from Joan Collins. Speaking of camp, at one point we see a long wall where various slaves are lined up for sale, with descriptions and prices written on the wall next to each slave - written in english of course. Now that's camp!"
Do you like gladiator movies?
mrliteral | 11/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some movie genres have definitely died over the years. The Western used to dominate but has petered out to maybe a movie or two per year of any note. Musicals are doing similarly, with the occasional success just showing how sparse the offerings are nowadays. The so-called sword-and-sandal flicks have, if anything, done even worse, with just a few significant offerings in the past decade, most notably Gladiator (others include Troy and Alexander).
Volume 4 of Warner Brothers Cult Camp Classics takes up back to the golden era of sword-and-sandal films (and their close cousins, Bible films). This set, titled Historical Epics, feature three entertaining if not particularly good examples of the genre.
First up is The Prodigal, very loosely based on the parable of the prodigal son. Edmund Purdom plays the title character, the son of a successful Jewish farmer in 70 B.C. who falls for a pagan high priestess and forsakes his family and fiancee to pursue her. Lana Turner plays the priestess who is essentially a high-priced call girl, and the price Purdom will be dear indeed, but if you're familiar with the prodigal son story, you know how it will all turn out in the end.
Next is The Colossus of Rhodes, most notable for being Sergio Leone's first credited directorial effort. If you're expecting the same stylistic film as with his Spaghetti Westerns, you're in for a disappointment: the direction is almost all by-the-book. The story has Rory Calhoun as an Athenian soldier on vacation in Rhodes during a time of intrigue with Phoenicia. Straddling the harbor is the Colossus, not merely a giant statue (far bigger than the historical version), but also an elaborate machine filled with traps for unwanted visitors to the island.
Finally, there is Land of the Pharaohs, directed by Howard Hawks in a movie that is one of the great director's weakest, even with screenwriting assistance from William Faulkner. Jack Hawkins plays the pharaoh obsessed with preserving his wealth after his death; he oversees the construction of the pyramid to serve as his tomb and has a clever method designed to make sure his treasure will not be stolen. As an absolute ruler, he does not have to deal with a love triangle when he falls for Joan Collins though he is already married; instead he just takes her on as a second wife. She, however, has greedier ambitions in mind. Though this lacks the wonderful dialogue common to Hawks movies, Land of the Pharaohs does conclude with a brilliantly ironic finale.
All three movies have commentary tracks and theatrical trailers. Are they truly campy? At times, although Colossus comes closed to pure camp. These are not great films, but with the DVD extras, the collection does merit four stars overall. Among the four Warner Brothers sets, I would rate this second best, behind the Sci-Fi Thriller set but ahead of Terrorized Travelers and Women in Peril. "
NadMan | Houston , USA | 09/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great way to waste a few hours, they just don't make 'em like this anymore, great color photography, serious scene chewing and, actually, excellent music scores, in at least two of them by well-known composers of the Golden Age...this is great fun...I especially love the Joan Collins bad girl turn in Land of the Pharoahs!"
Epic in all ways
Roger Urmson | NYC | 08/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is nothing more fabulous than Joan Collins trapped in a pyramid, screaming "I don't want to die - I don't want to die". The Land of the Pharoahs is worth the price alone; an excellent angle on the building of the pyramids and Egyptian society.
Lana Turner is all hot and steamy and hammy in The Prodigal.
Colussus is colossal.
Get this for a winter weekend and have plenty of popcorn on hand."