Rome – The Eternal City, no where in history has any one place, or culture been more thoroughly researched and romanticized in history then the culture, that Rome has brought to the world. Both when it was its own Republic/Empire, as well as being the Capital City of Italy.
Rome’s ancient hero’s and enemies have been romanticized in works of fiction for centuries, rather it has been in the written word, or on the big screen or the small screen. Works such as The Master’s of Rome Series which the various novels having been published at various points between the late 1990s – the late 2000s by Colleen McCullough and Antonia by Brenda Jagger… Along with countless dozen’s of other novels over the centuries! A few examples of those Roman epics that have been made for either the small screen or the big screen are such epics as Spartacus (1960) with Kirk Douglas (Empire State Murders) or HBO’s mini series Rome with Kevin McKidd (Bunraku).
With that said, I have seen a fair number of Roman epics in my time, from Spartacus to a majority of Ben Hur (1959) with Charlton Heston (The Omega Man) to Gladiator (2000) with Russell Crowe (LA Confidential)! And these are all great films that are well deserved of the recognition and accolades that they have received over the years….
But if you can believe it folks, despite having seen some truly epic historical Roman pieces like the ones that I mentioned above (and I hold to this day to the fact that each one of the ones that I mentioned above are truly great films.) But despite all of that, I still never truly grew to appreciate the Roman Epic until I actually began to watch HBO’s Rome? That show generated enough interest in me, that I have grown to appreciate those epics even more, and to see as many of the other ones that I can find!
Now you might be wondering why I have given this little discourse on the Roman contributions to the arts as they relate to the written word or the big/small screen… Well the reason I mention this is that despite everything that I have seen on either the small screen or the big screen, I have never actually seen any movie or TV show about Rome that actually had to do with it’s founding, until now! I found this in a great little Italian epic by Sergio Carbucci called Dual Of The Titans (1961)
Written by: Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly), Adriano Bolzani (Beyond Justice), Enino De Concini (War And Peace), Luciano Matrino (Un Coccodrillo Per Amico), Sergio Prosperi, Franco Rossetti (Django), Duccio Tessari (Les Aventuriers Du Rio Verde) and also Written and Directed by: Sergio Corbucci (Django). Starring: Steve Reeves (Hercules), Gordon Scott (Tarzan) and Virna Lisi (Fidati Di Me) Massimo Girotti (Facing Windows) and Jacques Sernas (Regina Di Fiori).
Duel OF The Titans tells the legendary tale of Romulus and Remus. Two brothers who grow from the adopted sons of a she-wolf to become probably two of the least known, but still probably some of the most important people in human history!
The movie though, takes place during a time in which the world is still pretty new to those people that are alive at that time. A time where masonry is still mostly not used… Where most villages are still made out of sticks and the hides of animals, where Humanity is just beginning to head past the concepts of wearing animal hides for clothing, and where the barbaric polytheistic religions still reign supreme… And that is just the good side of it!
During this time period, a woman is escaping from some unknown at this point evil with her twin baby boys! These twin babies are Romulus and Remus… Believed to be the children of a god, and destined to lead their people in to the founding of Rome!
At this point though they are still babies… During this time, and while their mother (Played by: Laura Solari) tries to escape with her children, she comes to realize that getting her children to safety on her own is useless, and thus bundles them up, and gives them a piece of her necklace to remember them by if they happen to survive. She then puts them safely on a piece of floating plant life and make sure that they float off to safety.
Their voyage comes to an end when the plant life hits the bank of the river a significant distance away. Now hearing their cries, a young she-wolf comes up to them, and ultimately ends up adopting these two humans in to her wolf pack…
Now we cut to a few years later, when a farmer by the name of Faustalus (Played by: Andrea Bosic), after killing the she-wolf discovers the twins sitting in the cave… To which he decides to take and raise as if they were his own.
Again we cut to a few years after that, and Romulus and Remus are both in their early 20s. At this point the setting is a ritual sacrifice to the pagan god ‘Pan’. During this time, the twins, their adoptive father, and some other people from their village, enter in to one of the caves that acts as a sacrificial alter for the god. After the sacrifice is done, and after the people attending the ceremony are whipped with the entrails of the goat that is sacrificed. They head over to the games…
This here is when we come to discover that, Romulus, Remus and his family and friends from his village aren’t just attending the religious ceremony, or that Romulus is planning on playing in the games afterward in the city of Alba Longa… Which he does. But they are planning to raid the city state of its supply of horses to take back to their village!
The plan goes off with out a hitch, until two things occur. First off, Romulus’ and Remus’ adopted father takes a poisoned arrow in the back (which we will get in to in just a few minutes). The other problem that I thought I would mention here first is the fact that Romulus who noticed Julia (Lisi) the wife of King Amulias, and the woman of his dreams, kidnaps her!
Now at first she tries as hard as she can to avoid becoming infatuated with him as well (with little avail) because by the time they make it to a currently at that time un-used hut. They are rolling around together in the hay (literally) and laughing and having a good time!
Of course this comes to a quick end, when Cursias (Sernas) shows up with a unit from King Amulias’ troops to rescue the Queen… When the soldiers are sneaking up on the two. Romulus hears this and grabs his sword and proceeds to fight his way out of the hut, till he is confronted by men on horse back that are brandishing spears that are pointed at Romulus. They proceed to arrest him and take him and the Queen back to Alba Longa…
Now we cut to Remus, who at this point has brought the captured horses and his band back to their quiet little happy village. Once they get their though, Remus discovers that his father had been hit by an arrow. Of course Remus heads to his father’s side. When he does so, he comes to discover that not only was his father hit, but that he had been poisoned and was going to die… This both sadden’s and angers Remus who knows that his father is going to die, and that Romulus should be here to, instead of having fun with the Sabine Queen of Alba Longa, ‘Julia’ (Virna Lisi).
Just before Remus’ father dies though, he tells Remus, about his and Romulus’s past and how they are the son of a god and the high priestess Rea Silvia. Of course at this point is when Remus’s ambitions not only begin to get the better of him, but actually begin to consume him!
What I mean by this is that during their adopted father’s funeral, begins to hatch a scheme that would not only get his brother out of the Alba Longa prison, but will sack the city and begin to give him the power that he quickly begins to believe is his own right! He cons the village in to following him in to an attack on Alba Longa, in an attempt to rescue his brother and to stop the oppression of the reign of King Amulias.
At this point I have to cut back to Romulus again. At this point Romulus is currently being tortured in an Alban torture chamber, when the king comes down to try and interrogate him, about the men who took his horses, and where they went off to… Of course this goes know where, because Romulus being the honorable man that he is decides to put the good of his village ahead of his own life.
At this point, King Amulias decides to give Romulus to the games… These happen the next day in an arena that is very reminiscent to the arenas that were popular during Ancient Roman times. The only difference is that this Arena is drastically smaller, and has a bear that gets to eat the people in it, instead of a Lion.
In the case of this day’s arena game, is Romulus, being served up to the bear! Despite the two attacking each other though the bear ends up doing little damage to Romulus, and not long after that is when Remus and his forces arrive to being the take over… This is where a kick ass battle ensues in which Remus and his group real quickly massively slaughter Amulias’s troops, and Amulias himself!
During this battle, both Romulus and Remus are reunited with their mother who tells them of a prophecy about the two brothers who are to lead a caravan of people to the promised land and there they are going to build the eternal city.
Both brothers take this to heart, and as the remnants of Alba Longa are slowly being destroyed. both Romulus and Remus, along with Julia being to lead a caravan of dozens of people in their quest to seek out this promised land!
During this time, Cursias (One of the only remaining Alban soldiers) catches up with King Tasius Nemulias of the Sabines who is watching all of this going down from afar, and decides to go after Romulus and Remus, not only for kidnapping his daughter (Julia) but to get revenge for sacking Alba Longa!
Now with time not on their side, and an army significantly larger then the caravan, as well as Remus’ desire for power overpowering him. It is up to Romulus to get his followers to the promise land, safe and secure before any of these forces grow out of control, and destroy any chance of freedom for his people at all!
Now what I like about this, and what I think truly does make this such an incredibly fun movie is…
1. First off let me preface what I am about to say with this, I have been a history nut for as long as I can remember, I have read Roman history from just about one end to the other, I even knew about the story of Romulus and Remus… Unfortunately I had never actually had the opportunity to find out the salient facts and details of that particular story! That is why I was really glad to see this film! Now admittedly probably a portion of this was sensationalized for the big screen. But still all in all it was a great re-telling of that legend!
2. I hate to say it folks, but this is actually the first time that I have ever scene a Sergio Leone movie! (I know… I am intending to rectify this problem.) But I gotta say that I find the details in this story that he helped to portray in his writing of this movie to not only be effective, but to also be quite a fascinating look in to a world that was slowly civillizing itself!
3. I also gotta say that this is the first foreign made Italian movie that was dubbed in English that I have ever seen, and I gotta say that, that also was a lot of fun, especially watching two English speaking actors who are both dubbed in English! :)
I am joking, but if you ever have a chance to see a non-English speaking movie, and your only language that you speak is English, then I highly recommend getting the movie dubbed, it does make it a lot more fun then with Subtitles.
4. Lastly I gotta say that I really thought the cast did a great job, and were very believable as the people they were playing. So much so that despite the fact that Rome was obviously founded, I was still rooting for Romulus to be able to found the city!
A couple of little side notes that I also thought that you might find interesting is that A: This movie is dubbed pretty decently in English, and that the producers of the movie had originally wanted to have Steve Reeves’ play both Romulus and Remus, and that he declined, recommending Gordon Scott who would go on to play his brother anyway!
Anyway if you are looking for a fun little historical epic, and or a great foreign film to sink your teeth in to, then I highly recommend checking this one out! I think you might find that you really like it!