Sword of the Conqueror

Sword of the Conqueror posterSword of the Conqueror, by Carlo Campogalliani, was obviously intended to be something of a prestige production. It was made by Titanus films, whose other peplums of the time included Sodom and Gomorrah, The Thief of Baghdad and The Battle of Marathon; and as with them it seems to have had some decent money invested in it. The director, Carlo Campogalliani, was viewed as of of the more reliable makers of quality b-movies, and had just scored a considerable success with Ursus (61). And the cast included three big names: Americans Jack Palance and Guy Madison, both of whom were popular draws in Europe, and Eleanora Rossi Drago, who had become a major league diva following her performances in saucy melodramas (such as Sensualità (52)) and had just won the best notices of her career for Estate violenta (59).

Knowing that they are weak along their borders, the Romans stir up a war between the two strongest barbarian tribes, the Gepedi and the Lombards. The Gepedi soon find themselves in some trouble: despite the best efforts of their heroic warrior Amalchi (Guy Madison), the Lombards are able to score several victories. This is partly down to the skill of the Longobard leader, Alboino (Jack Palance), and partly because the Gepedi have a traitor in their midst, Falisque (Carlo DAngelo), who is secretly working for the Romans.

Knowing that he has the upper hand, and also that something a bit hickey is going on, Alboino decides that rather than crushing his opponents completely, it would be better to sign a truce, so that the two sides can join forces against the Romans. The only condition is that he should be married to the daughter of the King, Rosmunda (Eleanora Rossi Drago). This is readily accepted, although Rosmunda is far from willing; she is already in love with Amalchi, with whom she has already secretly had a child. Amalchi, however, has other things on his mind: thanks to the scheming of Falisque he is accused of murdering the brother of Alboino, an act which causes the unsteady truce to break down.

The Lombard revenge is quick and brutal. It takes next to no time for them to overwhelm the Gepedi troops, kill the King and take the people into slavery. Alboi is still insistent, though, that he should be married to Rosmunda, and threatens to kill her child if she refuses. Amalchi, however, has managed to escape, and neither he nor Rosmunda are keen on the imminent union.

While Sword of the Conqueror is undoubtedly well put together and looks great – although it obviously did not have the backing that Sodom and Gomorrah did – it is, well, it is a little dull. There is a lot of talk, interrupted by the occassional chaotic battle scene , and the plot is very much the same old same old. Partially, the blame lies with the director. Campogalliani was a steady hand and knew how to make a decent, workaday film on time and on budget, but he could hardly be described as innovative. There are very few scenes – with the exception of an odd, drunken semi-orgy just prior to the climax – that stick in the mind, and he seems less happy with the action sequences than some of his younger peers.

In fact, what Sword of the Conqueror resembles more than anything else is a kind of historical melodrama. As in many of the traditional Italian melodramas, there is a female central character who is caught between two men – one broadly good, one broadly bad – and who is driven to ignoble acts because of the duff hand she has been dealt by fate. It is a little more complex than that, but the emphasis is definitely on the characters, making it a tad different from the usual peplum fare.

Given this, it needs the performers to do a good job, and on the whole they do. Guy Madison is the least prominent of the three main characters, but Rossi Drago milks it for everything she can, making her character increasingly unsympathetic as the running time progresses. Palance, sporting a rather scary bouffant haircut, hams it up to an extraordinary degree… and you would not want it any other way. The “sad” ending, in which he staggers around like a zombified Christopher Walken is absolutely hilarious. But he does manage to make Alboin – both he and Rosmunda are surprisingly well drawn characters for the genre – strangely likeable. In smaller roles, the likes of Vittorio Sanipoli (as a wily advisor), Carlo DAngelo (in the same kind of sneaky role he wouldd later play in The Great Silence) and Raf Baldassarre (as a villain with the unfortunate name of Sylvester) all do a decent turn, making this a decent if somewhat forgettable example of its type.

Sword of the Conqueror Sword of the Conqueror Guy Madison in Sword of the Conqueror

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