Tuesday, November 12, 2019

By the Gods!

 A dying Helga (Liana Orfei) is carried to a bed by Oleg (Victor Mature) in THE TARTARS (1961)

Directed by Richard Thorpe, who also directed IVANHOE (1952), THE PRODIGAL (1955) and QUENTIN DURWARD (1955), amongst other notable titles, this Italian is a notch above the usual PEPLUM movie but it also suffers from something that didn't affect other PEPLUM movies: an identity crisis. The movie itself is fast paced and is watchable from the start to finish but I always wonder for what audience this movie was made for. It aspires to be more than an average PEPLUM movie and yet because of its short running time, at 83 minutes, the story barely scratches the surface of Tartars. It's too pulpy for the Academy crowd and yet it's too elaborate to be seen strictly as an action film.

The story is about Samia (Bella Cortez) kidnapped by the Vikings, mainly by Eric (Luciano Marin). In retaliation for his brother's death and for the kidnapping of Samia, Burundai (Orson Welles) kidnaps Helga (Liana Orfei), who is the wife of Oleg (Victor Mature).  

The entire production is solid. The sets are amazing. The dance number is original and in character with the movie. The cast is there. Everything is very good. But the story is very simple. It's almost an after-thought. Thankfully the actors are good, certainly the supporting cast including Liana Orfei, Bella Cortez and Arnoldo Foà who played a priest/monk/sage. He stands out from the crowded pack to give the movie's most solid performance. Welles, who took the role because he already played the same type of character in THE BLACK ROSE (1950), barely emotes or moves. Even so, his role is much better (or more fun) than the one he played in DAVID & GOLIATH (1960). Victor Mature didn't retire after making this but he barely worked, only appearing in 5 films in the next 18 years. From looking at his performance, he clearly had enough of acting.

Ferdinando Baldi was the Italian director who 'co-directed' along with Thorpe. This is not the first movie Baldi co-directed with an English-speaking director. He did the same thing with DAVID & GOLIATH and DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961). 

Above and below: the ending with Oleg (Mature) waving goodbye to his son, Eric (Luciano Marin) and Samia (Bella Cortez). Mature also waved goodbye to acting, as he became semi-retired after this.

Arnoldo Foà and Orson Welles


Anonymous said...

Luciano Marin died.Rip

Anonymous said...

I like The Tarters a lot but I find it distracting that Mature's voice is sometimes his and sometimes dubbed but another actor within the same scene.

Tim Mayer said...

Is this the movie with the tragic "I'm sorry, the arrow was meant for you" scene?

PEPLUM TV said...

Tim, I'm not aware of this. I would have to rewatch the whole movie