Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Movie Review: Two Gladiators

Two Gladiators (I due gladiatori) 
Starring: Richard Harrison, Moira Orfei, Mimmo Palmara, Piero Lulli, Alberto Farnese, Giuliano Gemma, Álvaro de Luna, Adriano Micantoni, Ivy Holzer, Mirko Ellis, Gianni Solaro, Renato Montalbano 
Director: Mario Caiano 
Prometeo Film S.r.l., Italy, 1964. 
Another movie from the Warriors 50 Movie Pack by Mill Creek. 

Commodus (peplum regular Mimmo Palmara) is a blood-thirsty son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius who enjoys fighting in gladiator arena. A losing gladiator says that someday he will get what he deserves in the arena. 
Mimmo Palmara gladiator
Commodus (left) enjoys gladiator combat
Piero Lulli and Mimmo Palmara
Cleander is the main henchman of Commodus
Cleander (Piero Lulli)  and Leto (Alberto Farnese) are his trusted men who enjoy torturing people. Marcus Aurelius orders him to come to Pannonia because he is dying. But he dies before Commodus goes there. Commodus is now the new emperor. In Rome the people are starving and unrest is rising.  Commodus is not interested in continuing his father's war but plans a huge spectacle. Now Commodus and his lover Marcia (Moira Orfer) have lavish life in the palace. However he is quick to change a woman if bored with the old one. Commodus sets his eyes on Emilia (Ivy Holzer) but Emilia is not happy about the attention.
Citizen finds a tasty meal
Moira Orfer and Mimmo Palmara
Marcia and Commodus
Alberto Farnese, Mimmo Palmara, Ivy Holzer and Moira Orfer
Commodus gets interested in Emilia
Senator Tarrunius (Gianni Solaro) is worried that Commodus will be worse than Caligula. He plans a revolt and goes to Gaul to find Lucius Crassus (Richard Harrison). Tarrunius' friend Pertinax (Mirko Ellis) advices him to be careful. 
Mirko Ellis and Gianni Solaro
Senators Pertinax and Tarrunius find Commodus repulsive
Senator meets First Officer Horatio (Giuliano Gemma) who is trying to get reinforcements for Lucius. Lucius is fighting rebelling Gauls. Lucius loses his sword but luckily he has a secret blow (or rather a kick). Tarrunius reveals that Crassus is twin brother of Commodus. Tarrunius hid Lucius when he was born. Tarrunius plans to depose Commodus and make Lucius the new emperor. Commodus has spies who spoil the plan.
Giuliano Gemma
First Officer Horatio
Battle against the Gauls
Richard Harrison and Gianni Solaro
Lucius Crassus and Tarrunius talk about family matters
Lucius begins the trip to Rome with his friends Horatio and Pannunzio (Álvaro de Luna). Horatio has a bet with the other two about who kills most enemies. Commodus sends some soldiers to kill them at night. Luckily Horatio sleeps on a rock, so he wakes and notices the attackers. After a horse chase they escape and enter Rome. Pompeo (Adriano Micantoni) patches up their wounds. Tarrunius gets murdered and guards arrest Lucius. 

Leto is in love with Marcia. He helps Marcia to get rid of Emilia, so Emilia is imprisoned also. Lucius falls in love with Emilia. Lucius gets a friendly prison guard (Renato Montalbano) to get food for the prisoners. Marcia agrees to free Emilia if she leaves Rome. Lucius is brought to Commodus who tries to execute him. Lucius uses his secret kick and escapes. He and his friends plan a revolution. The people rise against the Praetorians. Commodus saves his own skin and accuses Cleander for the starvation in Rome. Cleander is lynched by angry mob and Commodus promises panem et circenses for the people. The conspirators try to seek Ottavius Craticus (Enzo Fiermonte) to prove royal origins of Lucius.
Moira Orfer and Alberto Farnese
Marcia and Leto
Richard Harrison and Ivy Holzer
Lucius meets Emilia in prison
Renato Montalbano
Friendly prison guard
Meanwhile Leto uses his power to extort wealthy citizens. Pannunzio tries to bribe Leto to leave him alive. Leto and Commodus use the bribe money to organize Gladiator games. Commodus mistreats Marcia and throws her out of the palace. She meets Emilia who agrees to hide her to Lucius' place. Spies hear the address also. There is an amusing Monty Pythonesque discussion between Pompeo and Pannunzio about food. Short version:
Pannunzio: Have you got anything without turnip?
Pompeo: No
Richard Harrison, Álvaro de Luna and Giuliano Gemma
Lucius, Pannunzio and Horatio
Adriano Micantoni and Álvaro de Luna
Pompeo and Pannuncio discuss about turnips
Lucius plans to fight Commodus on the gladiator arena. Marcia comes in stabbed in the back by Leto. After a fight the heroes escape. Meanwhile Horatio and Ottavius Craticus are bringing legionnaires to Rome. However they are late so Horatio goes ahead. Meanwhile gladiators are fighting on the arena. Commodus is the "hero" of the show. Commodus has to fight a surprise opponent, Lucius. Both are wearing masks and both are left-handed so it is impossible to say who is who. The winner is revealed to be Lucius. He still has to fight Leto's Praetorians. His friends join the fight and also the citizens join the fight. Ottavius Craticus arrives just in time. After beating the Praetorians, Ottavius declares Lucius the emperor. Lucius lowers the taxes, makes Horatius the head of the Praetorians, Pannunzio the commander of the troops in Gaul and Pompeo the chief tax-collector. Then Lucius abdicates the throne because power corrupts. He crowns Pertinax as the new emperor and kisses Emilia.
Commodus as masked gladiator
Enzo Fiermonte and richard Harrison
Ottavius Craticus and Lucius after victory
In real history Commodus had a twin brother Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus who died four years old. After Marcus Aurelius' death Commodus reigned 12 years. He appeared in the arena fighting mock fights or killing injured opponents or amputees. Marcia gave poisoned wine to Commodus after a bath, and an athlete strangled the emperor. Pertinax was indeed the next emperor after Commodus, but reigned less than three months before being killed by rebelling Praetorians.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) was inspirational to Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000), but also Two Gladiators works as a prototype of Gladiator. However the The Fall of the Roman Empire had a mega-budget while this is a low budget film. The movie is a fun semi-historical adventure with some good combat scenes. Giuliano Gemma, Álvaro de Luna and Adriano Micantoni offer some comic relief. Giuliano Gemma later starred many spaghetti westerns, I wonder if evil Lord Himuro Gemma from Ninja Scroll was some kind of tribute to him?
Giuliano Gemma and Demon Lord Himuro Gemma
The colours in this DVD version are very washed out. The cover says 97 minutes, but the movie is only 93 minutes. 

Rating: Good

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