Quick Review: THE TEN GLADIATORS


THE TEN GLADIATORS (1963) starring Dan Vadis, José Greci, Roger Browne, Mimmo Palmara, Gianni Rizzo, Salvatore Borghese etc. Directed by Gianfranco Parolini.

Some of the Ten Gladiators with Roger Browne as a non-gladiator

The Ten Gladiators trilogy is one of my favourite series from the PEPLUM explosion. It doesn't take itself seriously, it's full of action and humour, it probably has the beefiest cast of any PEP film, the music (the Ten Gladiators theme, etc) is memorable. There isn't much to dislike from these films. But from all the three films, oddly enough, the first one being THE TEN GLADIATORS, is my least favourite of the trilogy. It's a hot mess. Really. Honestly. As a fan of PEPLA this film is almost gag inducing.

The second best moment in the film

There are several fun moments where the spirit of the series shines through and it works but the film uses so many clips from other films that, for me at least, it's distracting to the point where I can't watch the film. In some instances there's footage from 4 separate films edited together in a few second. It's filled with so many borrowed scenes that I just laugh.

Unlike HERCULES THE AVENGER, which borrows entire intact 5+ minutes long scenes from different films, which in my book is wrong on so many levels, THE TEN GLADIATORS, on the other hand, borrows TONS of snippets/short scenes from GOLIATH & THE GIANT, LAST DAYS OF POMPEII, 79 AD DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM, etc many of which don't make much sense. For instance, at the end of the film Rome is burning but they use scenes from LAST DAYS OF POMPEII which is about earthquakes and volcanoes, not a simple fire.

A brief scene from GOLIATH AND THE GIANTS. Added for no reason.

Then there's a scene where a guard watches the ten gladiators trying to escape. That simple scene of a man looking through an opening was taken from GOLIATH AND THE GIANTS. The scene probably lasts 4 seconds in total. Why not just hire an actor for that scene? The whole thing is bizarre because the inclusion of that scene doesn't make any sense in regards to what's going on on screen. In fact the whole film is edited kamikaze-style with no regards to what's really going on at any point. In one shot we actually see Brad Harris crucified to a cross from the climax of 79AD which is followed by a new scene with José Greci bound to a cross in some dungeon. This is me scratching my head. What's the connection?

Fortunately there are many scenes which are not borrowed and those scenes work even though the muddled action in regards to the script makes it difficult to follow. The worst part of the script is the schizophrenic love triangle between Dan Vadis (sporting a truly bad haircut), José Greci and Roger Browne. The film starts with Vadis and Greci in love, having fun, etc and halfway into the film, Greci drops Vadis for Browne for no real reason.

José Greci and her beautiful eyes!

A fetching José Greci, Roger Browne and Mimmo Palmara add much needed star power and the crazy "throw everything in the blender" story focuses more on them than the ten gladiators themselves which is odd since the film is called, huh, THE TEN GLADIATORS! Arf. The highlight is the fight between Browne and Palmara. Both are in top shape and it's ace. The brawny brawl in the pool between Browne and Vadis is good but not as effective as the latter one.

The best scene in THE TEN GLADIATORS has nothing to do with the ten gladiators

The ten gladiators themselves have little to do, as they stand around Vadis and Browne and assist them in fighting bad guys. Not all the actors who played the ten gladiators in this returned for the sequels/prequels but the majority of them did including Pietro Torrisi and Salvatore Borghese.

Even if this is the first of 3 Ten Gladiators films, it actually works as the last one. This hot mess actually became a hit and two vastly superior follow-ups were made with Vadis returning (with a better haircut) even though, without spoiling it, it's technically impossible so the sequels should be regarded as prequels.

So in closing: thank god this became a hit and new director Nick Nostro was able to make two more rocking films. Except for the brawny gladiator antics and fight scenes and a fetching Greci this is, to my PEP trained eyes, nearly unwatchable.

4 out of 10

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2 comments:

S.R.Orsulak said...

I have this film and I hardly ever watch it, and the 2 that followed I always watch and enjoy. Talk about screwy editing and scenes taken from other films that don't make much sense in this movie I also noticed. Surprised it was a big hit. I thought that maybe those quick clips from other movies might of been intentional, but maybe I'm wrong. There are a lot of PEPS that used stock footage from larger productions. My favorite is TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS it has some stock in it but I didn't mind because the film was great fun.

PEPLUM cinema said...

Using stock footage moderately is not bad when the film works, like the two TEN GLADIATORS sequels. This is not the case here.