Friday, December 16, 2011

The missing scenes from SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS

If you're a regular visitor here you probably know that SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS is one of my favourite, if not my favourite PEPLUM. The moment I saw it it was love on first sight. But as much as I love it I still had some reservations, mainly about King Melanchrus, who's reduced into a harmless buffoon in the US cut, which runs 16 minutes shorter than the original version. I've recently acquired a French copy of the film and as far as I can tell, it's uncut. And this version shows so much more about King Melanchrus and how evil and insane he is which sheds so much light on why everyone wants to overthrow him. Here's a quick rundown of scenes missing in the US version.

The scenes with the lions at the beginning was shortened by a minute or so.

The dance sequence when Sappho is introduced was shortened, with some gyrating scenes missing from the US cut.

The introduction of King Melanchrus. The scene is beautifully mounted (even in this bad copy). All the following scenes with Melanchrus are missing in the US cut.

Melanchrus' slave girls (or servants) hold bird cages as the crazed King feeds the birds. Melanchrus and birds is a running theme throughout the film.

The King asks the slave girl which one is the male bird and the female bird. The slave girl answers promptly and the King asks her how she knows this and she informs him that she learned it from the previous slave girl. The King then asks her what happened to the previous slave girl and she tells him that he ordered her to be decapitated because she couldn't tell him which birds were the males or the females. This scene shows how demented Melanchrus is even if it's treated as a bit of black comedy.

King Melanchrus, with Hyperbius and Laricus, visits his dungeon and he's shown a new torture device, one which contains a rat in a cage placed on a victim and the only way for the rat to escape is for it to burrow its way through the victim's body. Hmm...

There are two prisoners and one of them was tortured to death by the man who conducts the tortures. The torturer admits he simply wanted to get the victim out of his mysery. Laricus, not happy with the cruel torture methods he has witnessed, leaves while Hyperbius fights with the torturer and kills him.

At the Temple of Aphrodite, we see the teachers showing the young girls how to weave and sow. Below, which is part of the same scene, we see Sappho sneaking away up the stairs to see Phaon.

The final scene of Actis and Sappho together when Sappho admits she has fallen in love with Phaon, which upsets Actis. Why was this scene cut I'll never know.

During a moment when a grieving mother explains to the rebels how her family was attacked by Melanchrus' soldiers, we see the mother's daughters grabbed by soldiers and pinned down on tables and we learn afterwards that they were raped and one of them was murdered. This scene, pictured above and below, is a bit hard to take in a so-called family film but it shows the extent of Melanchrus' evil, which is sorely missing in the US cut, in which we really never get to know why everyone is against him. In this cut, we clearly know why.

Riccardo Garrone as Hyperbius is ripped to shreds by a lion. We see much more of this gory and realistic scene.

All in all, this cut is so much better than the abbreviated US one. It shows, without a shadow of doubt, why there's an uprising against the King, who, in the US cut, was made to be seen as a defenseless buffoon. Other scenes have also been shortened, including the final battle but this is the bulk of the missing scenes.

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James E. Parten said...

Okeh, so when do we get the fan dub?

The YT version runs some 89 minutes. This is 105 minutes or so?

agraf74 said...

«The final scene of Actis and Sappho together when Sappho admits she has fallen in love with Phaon, which upsets Actis.»

Without that dialogue, one may not understand the previous attitudes of Actis towards Sappho, and the man who arrived at the island for shelter. At this moment, Actis explicitly reveals she is a rejected, jealous young woman in love with... Sappho. That would not sit well with US film distributors then, and possibly now, again.

Your comparison of versions is very good, thank you.