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Monday, February 16, 2009

Triumph of the Ten Gladiators (1964) review


Dan Vadis (Roccia), Helga Line (Queen Maluya), Gianni Rizzo (Sestus), Enzo Fiermonte (Rettzius), Stelio Candelli (Glauco), Ivano Staccioli (Alamandro), Halina Zalewska (Myrta), Leontine May (Saleema), Jeff Cameron, Sal Borgese (Menos), Aldo Canti

Directed by Nick Nostro; Music by Carlo Savina

For their impressive skills and loyalty to Rome, the famous ten gladiators are hired by Prubius, a council member for the Emperor of Syria to travel to Arbela, a neutral kingdom between Rome and Parthia. With war inevitable between Rome and Parthia, the mission is to learn of the Parthians true intentions involving a pact between Queen Maluya and the Parthian Prime Minister in allowing them passage through the free lands of Arbela. However, the real mission of the Romans is to kidnap Queen Maluya, the ambitious leader of the Parthians and smuggle her into Syria as a hostage for Rome.

The third and final entry in the popular TEN GLADIATORS trilogy is a more light hearted and comical romp with a bit of violence and torture towards the end. Vadis again essays the role of Roccia, the leader of the band of brawlers. Although he isn't playing a HERCULES-like character, he does perform some Herculean style actions from time to time. Vadis appeared in a fair handful of the peplum/fusto movies near the end of the cycle. He was one of the more action oriented of the stable of muscle stars and emoted far more than other actors in the genre.

He would easily make the transition to westerns and from there he would become good friends with Clint Eastwood. Vadis appeared in a number of Clint's movies such as HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973), EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (1978) and ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN (1980). In the latter two films, Vadis played one of the Black Widows, a motorcycle gang that gave Philo Bedoe no end of trouble. Vadis would return to peplums alongside Lou Ferrigno and Brad Harris in the terrible SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (1983) as the main villain. The Stunner, Sybil Danning also starred in this one. Directed by Bruno Mattei, it's a dismal affair and a sad send off to one of the more talented of the peplum stars.

All of the ten fighters appear to be having a great time in this one. Quite a bit of the running time is not taken very seriously, but near the end, the film gets a bit violent, but not nearly as doom laden as the first movie. Unlike the previous entries, the other gladiators get a lot of screen time on their own. Vadis is still the main star, but the others get to shine as well. Sal Borgese especially, as the mute Menos, is primarily comic relief for the other fighters when they all aren't involved in comic shenanigans.

Aldo Canti 3rd from right

Spaghetti Western fans will recognize Nello Pazzafini hiding in the background as a gladiator during the beginning and also Aldo Canti is one of the ten main gladiators. Canti was featured in the SABATA trilogy (he played the acrobatic Indian in the first film) and also as another acrobat in the spirited Italian war film, FIVE FOR HELL (1969).

Helga Line is gorgeous as usual playing Queen Maluya who may or may not be an enemy of the Roman Empire. She has some brief scenes of romantic chemistry with Vadis. She changes attire frequently and several of these tease her assets. Line also featured in a less distinguished role as Dania in the previous entry, SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964). Helga Line also appeared in other genre product most notably in the classic sci fi horror picture, HORROR EXPRESS (1972), which featured the likes of acting legends, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas.

Leontine May plays the villainess of the piece and in one of the best scenes, she attempts to cut the ropes suspending Myrta over a pit containing a big constrictor as the ten gladiators fight their way to free her. In the most disturbing scene of the film, Myrta is captured and tortured with whips and a branding iron by Saleema and Alamandro in an attempt to get her to reveal the whereabouts of the gladiators.

Fans of the series tend to prefer the second film, SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964), but I enjoy the third entry the best followed closely by the second film. The first in this series relies more on comic hijinks but does a complete 360 during the finale. This film has all the elements that make the genre so enjoyable to watch-lots of action, larger than life heroes, beautiful women, elaborate plots and devilish villains. The comedy isn't completely overbearing this time out, and at times, it adds an air of fun to the proceedings. One of the funniest bits sees our ten heroes dressing up as women to gain access back into the city to rescue Myrta, their female compatriot. With all the comic interplay, the film is serious when it needs to be.

The action is plentiful and well done most of the time. A couple of the fight scenes seem lazily handled, but aside from that, the choreography is good. Some of the stand out scenes are the opening sequence which introduces the ten men. Vadis runs at the screen as if he is fighting the camera; followed by the other participants who do likewise. Borgese appears with his back to the camera until an off screen voice yells, "Hey, Menos..." then Borgese turns and fights at the camera.

The scene in which the ten gladiators are tricked in the arena by Maluya's warriors only to repay the supposed treachery by tossing their spears at her feet in defiance is another. Some of the torture devices are intriguing such as a stone coffin cut with the shape of a victim. Another huge stone with a cut out of the individual is lowered down on top of the screaming captive burying them alive within the stone tomb. The finale is also well done with a good fight between Roccia and Alamandro.

Considering this film was at the end of the torch and toga cycle of Italian adventures, the budget must have been smaller than usual for a film featuring ten musclebound heroes instead of one or two. It also looks like some of the sets have been recycled from the previous two movies. Stock footage appears to have been employed depicting an attack on Parthian forces by the Roman army. It doesn't matter, though, as the action is near constant and you don't have a lot of time to ponder the films deficiencies. The score from Savina is memorable, especially the main theme and the film as a whole is a great deal of fun and recommended if you like these kinds of pictures. There is a German widescreen DVD of this movie but sadly, it has no English options.

This review is representative of the battered and beaten public domain release from Sinister Cinema.

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