Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Colossus Of Rhodes (1961)

After learning his craft on a variety of film projects through the years, director Sergio Leone made his feature debut with this historical epic, an overlong and overcooked drama that keeps the viewer onside with a likable lead, decent pacing, and some enjoyable action set-pieces. And there's a big statue looming over everything, as you may have guessed, which features in a couple of the best set-pieces.

Rory Calhoun plays Dario, an Athenian war hero who visits the island of Rhodes just in time to see the official ceremony marking the completed construction of the Colossus Of Rhodes, a huge statue that the ruler of Rhodes believes will protect the island and his people. He doesn't realise that there are already enemies in the crowds around him, all of them engaged in a plot that Dario will soon find himself caught up in.

It may be a step removed from the Westerns that would secure his name in the history books of cinema, but The Colossus Of Rhodes is a fun adventure that still manages to hint at what Leone would give us in his future movies. A lot of the stunts seem quite fearless, there are a number of great performances from the supporting players, and the plot essentially revolves around a lot of locals relying on an outsider to save them from lots of ruthless criminals.

It took seven people to craft the screenplay, apparently, and I am not going to list all of their names here but the end result is good enough. There's nothing particularly memorable when it comes to the dialogue, although one or two exchanges are wryly amusing, but it works very well at setting up the characters and showing the developing scheming and treachery. It's just a shame that all of those people couldn't figure out a way to prune the film down to a more reasonable runtime; there's no way this needs to be over two hours long.

I've already mentioned the likability of Calhoun in the lead role, George Rigaud is also very likable as the uncle that he is visiting, Lea Massari is a Rhodesian beauty, and Conrado San Martin, looking not entirely unlike Will Patton after an accident involving too much black hair dye, is an enjoyably slimy villain. Others acting under the shadow of the great statue include Georges Marchal, Mabel Karr, Felix Fernandez, and Roberto Camardiel, to name but a few.

It may be a bit of an anomaly compared to the other movies we got from Sergio Leone, but The Colossus Of Rhodes is a fun time for those who know what they are letting themselves in for.


There's quite an expensive DVD available here.
Americans, or those who can play R1 discs, have a cheaper option here.

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