The Colossus of Rhodes (Sergio Leone / Italy-France-Spain, 1961):

"Spectacles always amuse me." All of Sergio Leone's apprenticeship under Blasetti and Wyler and Wise is visible on screen from start to finish, a fresco painter's first signed commission. Rhodes "the island of peace" rocked by assassinations and uprisings, an interrupted holiday for the visiting warrior from Athens (Rory Calhoun). The bronze giant of the title stands astride the Mediterranean harbor, in its shadows are a tyrant (Roberto Camardiel) and a rebel leader (Georges Marchal), also a scheming prime minister (Conrado San Martín) and the vamp (Lea Massari) who would be queen. Luxury continuously unsettled by streaks of brutality—a fatuous flirtation leads to a subterranean mausoleum (the camera turns 360° to give the mummified dynasty next to caged beasts), a suite of palatial divertimenti is spiked with a dose of poisoned nectar. "Is this a celebration or a massacre?" Already the Yankee cowboy star in Spanish vistas, along with the detailed eye for corporal punishment (emphasis on flayed beefcake). Still, the Leone close-up is a couple of years away, the SuperTotalScope rectangle cries for lavish long-shots and gets them, courtesy of a Roman view of Hellenistic splendor. Pastrone is paid tribute to in the Apollonian behemoth, at one point its top opens up like a Ken Adam design so that catapults can shoot molten lead, at another hero and foe crawl out of its ear and suddenly it's North by Northwest. The return to the devastated village becomes Jodorowsky's opening in El Topo, the divine cataclysm goes right into Aldrich's The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah. "I thought only a Greek mind could create such a work of art." Duck, You Sucker takes another whack at the revolution. With Mabel Karr, Ángel Aranda, George Rigaud, and Félix Fernández.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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