Friday, November 8, 2019

By the Gods!

Gianna Maria Canale is the cruel villainess in THE SWORD & THE CROSS (1956; aka Le schiave di Cartagine or SLAVES OF CARTHAGE )

A great PEPLUM, made 2 years prior to HERCULES (1958), beautifully shot in widescreen (Cinetotalscope). This is the type of movies made in Italy which could have never been made in Hollywood, which tended to focus on major historical characters and events. The story is hard to summarize in that the story is basically a melodrama (the best kind). Julia (Canale) loves Marcus (Jorge Mistral) but she's promised to another powerful man who is killed. The murder is blamed on Christians even though they had nothing to do with it. Marcus acquires two female slaves (schiave), two sisters who are also Christians. Marcus falls for Lea (Marissa Allasio) and a jealous Julia sets to make Lea's life miserable certainly after all Christians are arrested, imprisoned, forced to work in horrible conditions and tortured, including Lea. It culminates with the screenshots posted here. I won't divulge anything else of the story.

Everything is top notch: production, cinematography, score, costumes, cast. The only major weakness  is the character Lea and how she is portrayed by Marisa Allasio. IMO, her character fails to capture my sympathy because of Marisa's limited acting skills. Marisa acted in 18 movies and by 1958 she left the acting world, seemingly after getting married to Pier Francesco Vittorio Maria Agostino Luca Frediano Calvi di Bergolo (phew!). A side note, Marisa is still alive! I wonder how she looks like today. It's a shame they didn't find a more experienced actress for Lea. The movie would have been PEPLUM perfection. Director Guido Brignone, who made movies since 1916, would eventually move on to direct the equally gorgeous SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR (1959). What I find remarkable about this production is the use of widescreen. If I'm correct this is the first Italian PEPLUM movie shot this way and the camerawork is not static at all. Adalberto Albertini was the cinematographer and he shot many PEPLUM movies, including GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959), COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960) and THE SEVEN REVENGES(1961).

The English version of this is still missing in action.

Here's a quick lesson in Italian.

The word SLAVE in Italian is 'schiavo' (male) and 'schiava' (female), while SLAVES is 'schiavi (male) and 'schiave' (female). The original title is LE SCHIAVE DI CARTAGINE therefore THE FEMALE SLAVES OF CARTHAGE.

Marisa Allasio as Lea

1 comment:

Scott Ochiltree said...

I agree that this is a first class Peplum. Gianna is always best in the role of a Peplum villainess.

However, Her blinding of Marisa Allosio (Lea) is a significant turn-off for me. Branding or whipping her would have been better.