Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
Original Title: La Guerra Di Troia
Italy/France/Yugoslavia, 1961. Compagnie Industrielle et Commerciale Cinématographique, Europa Cinematografica, Les Films Modernes, Lovcen Film. Screenplay by Giorgio Ferroni, Ugo Liberatore, Giorgio Stegani, Federico Zardi. Cinematography by Rino Filippini. Produced by Giampaolo Bigazzi. Music by Mario Ammonini, Giovanni Fusco. Production Design by Pier Vittorio Marchi, Zoran Zorcic. Costume Design by Milanka Sultanovic. Film Editing by Antonietta Zita.
Cecil B. DeMille always claimed that he could be given any page of the Bible and turn it successfully into a three-hour epic; likely there was an ambitious Italian producer who felt the same way about ancient history. The legendary story involving the giant horse that gave birth to the maxim “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts” is the map upon which this Steve Reeves adventure is charted, taking place towards the end of the (factually unproven) decade-long Trojan War that saw united Greek fighters avenging the kidnapping (or was it?) of the beautiful Helen (Edy Vessel). Reeves plays the Trojan warrior Aeneas, entrusted with protecting his magnificent city against the invaders and so far pretty successful at frustrating the enemy. The aged Ulysses (played by John Drew Barrymore, son of John and father of the E.T. child star) comes up with a genius plan to give the Greeks an advantage, concocting a magnificent horse statue to be delivered to the city gates and offered as a gift from Poseidon. What the Trojans do not know is that the wooden structure contains Greek soldiers who then break out and lay siege to Troy and doom the city to be lost for all eternity. It’s an interesting choice to have Reeves play a member of the losing side, until you remember that it’s a film made in Italy and Aeneas later founds the city of Rome. Made immediately in the years following Reeves’s success as Hercules, this one has some impressive battle sequences (shot in the wide open spaces of nearby Yugoslavia) and its dramatic structure is respectable even if it isn’t scholarly, but it lacks the visual panache of earlier films like Giant of Marathon; the widescreen doesn’t zing with colour, Reeves’ beautiful skin doesn’t glisten in the sunlight and there’s not enough exploitation of gorgeous (imaginative) ancient architecture. Action fans will love it, though, and Reeves does himself proud in a role that requires more than just his usual flexing.