Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
Original Title: Agi Murad il diavolo bianco
Italy/Yugoslavia, 1959. Majestic Film, Lovcen Film. Screenplay by Gino De Santis, Ákos Tolnay, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. Cinematography by Mario Bava. Produced by Mario Zama. Music by Roberto Nicolosi. Production Design by Kosta Krivokapic. Costume Design by Filippo Sanjust. Film Editing by Riccardo Freda.
The Steve Reeves adventures move away from the heat of southern Europe and head east, where the very All-American Reeves plays a hero of the Caucasus. With the Russian empire looking to bring all citizens of its vast lands under the rule of Nicholas I, the palace is frustrated by the refusal of the Chechens to fall easily under their power. The rebels have as their leader Hadji Murad (Reeves), a powerful warrior who has kept imperial power at bay successfully for a long time, but his success is undermined by the treacherous Ahmed Khan, who is secretly collaborating with the Russians in a bid to grab power for himself, as well as trying to take the hand of Murad’s love Sultana (Giorgia Moll). Bey turns the Chechen King Shamil against our hero, who is arrested and taken prisoner in a fortress where he earns the sympathy of an intelligent princess (Scilla Gabel) and is tortured, shirtless. It’s based on a novel by Leo Tolstoy, and no offense to the prowess of the genuinely beautiful star, but if you show up to a Steve Reeves movie expecting a faithful, thematically dense adaptation of a Tolstoy novel, you deserve whatever disappointment befalls you. Suffice it to say that the film hits on the bullet points of the great author’s plot and, while it does not do so with any electric charisma, it’s efficient and features effective performances from the entire (mostly dubbed) cast. Poor treatment of this little-seen, low-budget Italian exploitation flick over the years means that the prints currently available for popular viewing are in awful condition, you can no longer tell that it is lit and shot by the visual mastery of the great Mario Bava thanks to faded colours and awful pan-and-scan editions.