Thursday, November 21, 2019

By the Gods!

Tere Velázquez and Lex Johnson become lovers in THE RAPE OF THE SABINES (1962)

A unique movie in that it's a Mexican production aping an Italian PEPLUM movie. It's an odd production with some merit but it's more of a curio than anything else. The movie is awkward in that it's really self-conscious that it's mimicking a genre popular in a different culture. As a facsimile, it's pretty good but once you look beyond the obvious appearance of it all, the movie has little to offer. To the uninitiated, the movie might appear to be a typical PEPLUM but to me as a die-hard fan, the movie lacks a plethora of stuff which automatically tells me this ain't the real thing. It's shot in 'Mexiscope' which is 1.37:1, or nearly 4:3, not widescreen, the preferred aspect ratio of European productions. This observational point is easy to notice but other missing elements which give it away, like the same props seen in almost every Italian movie, such as the same cauldron. Missing are the same supporting actors or extras who are rarely credited, and of course the familiar locations, like the Monte Gelato waterfall.

The script follows the classic story: Romulus and Remus fight (briefly), and the victorious Romulus decides to establish Rome but they need women so they kidnap the women from the nearby Sabine tribe. The story shows how the women eventually become the wives of their new husbands. It's a turgid sort of a 'sex comedy', focused mainly on two couples: Lex Johnson and Tere Velázquez, and Wolf Ruvinskis and Lorena Velázquez. Wolf Ruvinskis acted in many Mexican productions, including popular wrestling movies. The two Velázquez also worked extensively in the Mexican movie industry. To set the two women apart: Tere is the dark haired one and Lorena is the lighter haired one (Lorena's hair actually abruptly changes to different shade throughout the movie). And Lex Johnson, an American, acted in just a couple of movies and TV production. This was his first starring role. He sorta fits the genre, like Ed Fury did.

The production is very ordinary, TV-like. The exterior sets look like an unused amusement park. The women's costumes are flashy, maybe a bit too flashy. And the men sport the typical tiny tunic/peplum popular in those movies back then, and since most of the men are very fit, the little clothes they wear suits them. There is some narration. The man who narrates sounds like Orson Welles.

It's known under different titles: THE RAPE OF THE SABINES, THE RAPE OF THE SABINE WOMEN, THE SHAME OF THE SABINE WOMEN or THE REBELLION OF THE SABINES (title of Spanish release). I used the title seen in the opening credit: THE RAPE OF THE SABINES. The movie is not bad. It is entertaining but it's not remarkable by any means. For example, the fight between Romulus and Remus at the beginning is one of the lamest things you'll ever see. There's an attempt for the story to touch upon the many aspects of the legend but since they have very little time (80 minutes or so), everything is touched upon in a superficial manner. It's not one of those PEPLUM movies which I watch over and over because they're so much fun.

Lex Johnson and Wolf Ruvinskis, as Romulus, who just killed Remus. Underwhelming scene.

There were two SABINE movies released around the same period. This one and the more famous ROMULUS & THE SABINE WOMEN (1961) starring Roger Moore, Mylene Demongeot and a cast of famous Italian and European actors. It's enjoyable but not very convincing. Like many PEPLUM movies of the time, the 1961 one wavered awkwardly between comedy and seriousness, ultimately to its detriment. Which one I prefer? I definitely prefer the Italian one even though the Mexican production focused mainly on the effects of the mass abduction while the ROMULUS & THE SABINE WOMEN was more focused on Moore playing the lover of many women.

I have three versions of this: the Something Weird release at 81 minutes (it's not available at Something Weird anymore). And two versions in Spanish, one in B&W and the other in color. Both have the same title during the opening credits and are also 81 minutes long.

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