Category Archives: Historical Epic

79 A.D. (1962)

79 A.D. PosterA lot of folks ask me why they should care about ancient history in general and old Italian gladiator movies about ancient history in particular. Who cares whether some guy named Feces Maximus fought a guy named Flatulence the Elder over a beautiful girl named Chlamydia? What does that have to do with my life here in the futuristic present where people have normal names like Barack and Kanye? Continue reading

King of Kings (1961)

KingofKingsPosterAs soon as King of Kings began, I felt my heart race and my left arm go numb when the narrator (Orson Welles) intoned that the year is 63 B.C. Maybe I don’t know a whole lot about this religious stuff, but I was smart enough to notice that we were starting things way before Jesus was ever immaculately conceived, let alone bugging Romans. I wondered just how much pre-game hype I was going to have to sit through. After all, I was paying to see a film about Christ and his times, not about how crappy everyone had it until he showed up. Continue reading

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)

Charge of the Light Brigade PosterThis has to be my favorite movie about the Crimean War! While the film attempts a half-hearted explanation of the events that take us into the Crimean War through its periodic (and somewhat snarky) animation segments (it was 1968 so you’ve got to expect a little pretentious artiness and social commentary), I didn’t get much more out of it than identifying the countries through the cartoon animals that represented them: Russia was a bear, Britain a lion and Turkey was a turkey wearing a fez. France was of course a chicken. Continue reading

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Dr Zhivago PosterAs directed by David Lean, Dr. Zhivago is a movie of sweeping scale and swirling historical events about the life of a Russian poet. Once it was all over though, I wondered why more time wasn’t devoted to Zhivago and less time devoted to shots of trees fluttering, frosted over windows, and really cold countryside. As the movie drew to a close, I felt like all I knew about Zhivago was that he loves to pump blondes, write poems, and isn’t really sold on this Russian Revolution thing. Heck, that could describe any of us! Continue reading

Cleopatra (1963)

Cleopatra PosterHoly crap, that was long! Such was my reaction after finishing this one about two days after I started it. Lumbering, plodding, crawling, rumbling, stumbling, and finally bumbling into the endzone after an eternity, this movie (and really, that’s probably too charitable a term for something more akin to second job) will sorely test the patience of even the hardiest of historical epic fans. Continue reading

Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)

Demetrius and the Gladiators PosterNine months after Richard Burton was harassed into becoming a Christian by a red beach towel in The Robe, Hollywood decided it was time for a sequel. Since this whole Christian thing worked out so well for Burton and co-star Jean Simmons (you might recall they ended up on the wrong end of the archery field at the end of The Robe), it was left to Victor Mature to run around squawking about this robe and how it can just butt out of his life when things get rough.

Everyone’s favorite character in this movie (well, aside from the robe – it’s kind of hard to be a real Christian and not pick the robe) is Strabo, the tough but lovable guy that runs the gladiator school and played by Ernest Borgnine. Continue reading

The Robe (1953)

TheRobeDVDCoverRichard Burton’s Marcellus Gallio is a tribune in the Roman army and we meet him as he hangs out in a town marketplace. He peruses the slaves, fights with his girlfriend, and meets up with a gal from his youth. Since she is played by Jean Simmons (The Big Country and Elmer Gantry) his fight with the girlfriend understandably doesn’t seem as important as it once did. If I thought for one second that anyone from my childhood ended up looking like Jean Simmons instead of Gene Simmons, I’d probably be booking my hotel room for my high school reunion now instead of planning on egging my English teacher’s car that night. Continue reading