Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The slaves revolt

Rhonda Fleming got a day in Summer Under the Stars this past August, and that gave me the chance to record a couple of her movie that I had never seen before, including one that she made in Italy later in her career: Revolt of the Slaves.

We don't see Fleming for a bit; instead the action begins in Rome some time before Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, so a period when Christians were still persecuted. A bunch of slaves are brought into a plaza, and one of them tries to escape, unsuccessfully. The punishment for that is getting one's hands cut off. This prompts Vibio (Lang Jeffries), another of the slaves, to try to escape. This slave is stronger and smarter than the first, and also as we eventually learn a Christian. Vibio too is caught, but he's fortunate: a patrician named Fabio has come to the plaza, and offers to buy Vibio in lieu of Vibio getting his hands cut off.

Fabio's daughter Fabiola (Rhonda Fleming) sees Vibio's toned body, and she immediately gets the physical hots for him, despite their class differences. Fabiola would like to see Vibio use that body to fight the other wrestler-slaves. Fabiola has him whipped. But her cousin Agnese has Vibio saved. Agnese is secretly a Christian, too, and she's got a powerful boyfriend, the tribune Sebastian. Unsurprisingly, Sebastian is another of the secret Christians.

Spying on them is Corvino (French singer/actor Serge Gainsbourg), working for Emperor Massimiano and a rabid anti-Christian. He warns the emperor that Fabio is a very powerful enemy, but the emperor isn't so sure. In any case, the Christians are going to have to flee yet again and find someplace else to do their worshipping. Fabiola doesn't have much love for the Christians either, at least not until she learns from Vibio that her cousin is one of them, at which point she has a bit of a conflict but is at least willing to help her family; blood being thicker than water and all that.

But of course Massimiano and Corvino are still out there, waiting to hunt down the Christians and have them martyred in the sort of ceremony that is a suitable spectacle both to all the Romans sitting in the stands of the arena, and people of the 20th century watching a movie that wants to think of itself as an epic. Vibio, however, has no desire to be martyred....

Revolt of the Slaves is an interesting little movie in that it has very high production values for the sort of Italian movie that was also intended to be distributed in America. Certainly the production values are a lot higher than in other Italian sword and sandal movies such as the Hercules movies with Steve Reeves or similar movies. On the other hand, the movie isn't that much better in terms of plot than those other Italian movies. Still, it's definitely worth one watch.

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