By the Gods!

Renato Baldini and Gianna Maria Canale are tempestuous lovers in THEODORA - SLAVE EMPRESS (1954)

This film often gets polarized reactions : detractors find it absolutely ridiculous while fans believe it's absolutely sublime. It's sorta both actually. There are really over-the-top, quasi ridiculous scenes in it, such as Theodora in a chariot race. Historically, it never happened. Events happened at the Hippodrome which was part of the legendary riots between the Blues and Greens but the Empress never participated in a race. But I think this is what makes this film so memorable. Some might find it too campy in this regard but to me that's not necessarily bad. I think director Riccardo Freda wanted to boost the mythological aspects of the real Theodora and what's more amazing than a woman winning a chariot race? Gianna Maria Canale was married to Freda, which adds some fun meta aspects to the entire creative production. A playful Canale is always in control of the role. She's never overwhelmed by it. While Renato Baldini is unforgettable as her scorned lover. His role in this is one of my favourite things. He's the simple, unsophisticated lustful 'barbarian' who has only one thing on his mind : sex. The two are actually pretty much alike. Historical inaccuracies aside, I really enjoy watching this movie. The only negative things are the way animals were treated in it and the fact that it was not filmed in widescreen.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like this movie,is good entertainment

Scott Ochiltree said...

I agree this is a most enjoyable Peplum. The chariot race is one of the best in the genre, other than in BEN HUR (both silent and sound versions).

The lions getting released is another nice touch, somewhat reminiscent of the arena scene in SINS OF ROME. A Peplum without the lions getting into action is like a day without sunshine.

Campyness in Peplum movies is fine in my view, provided it does not become just plain silly. Examples of sillyness are Peplums showing the gods on Mount Olympus.