The Siege of Syracuse (1960)

aka L’Assedio di Siracusa
Article 2861 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-8-2009
Posting Date: 6-13-2009
Directed by Pietro Francisci
Featuring Rossano Brazzi, Tina Louise, Sylva Koscina
Country: Italy / France

Syracuse lies between the warring nations of Rome and Carthage; as long as the balance of power between the nations remains intact, both nations are willing to preserve the neutrality of Syracuse. However, Rome has now gotten the upper hand in its struggle for power. The fate of Syracuse lies in the hands of its leader, the famed inventor and scientist Archimedes.

My print runs some eight minutes short of the original running time. I wouldn’t bother to report this detail usually; after all, most sword-and-sandal movies have been so damaged by bad dubbing and ill treatment by the time they hit our shores that I’d be more surprised if the running time did match. However, this isn’t your ordinary sword-and-sandal movie, at least for this series of reviews I’m writing. For one thing, it’s letterboxed and subtitled, which leaves its dignity intact, though, unfortunately, it also makes the abrupt jump cuts especially noticeable, hence my comment about the running length. It’s also different in that the central character isn’t the muscleman variety; as a king and a scientist, it’s more involved in politics and science and less with action. The first half of the movie is, unfortunately, a bloody bore; it’s mostly obsessed with the love life of Archimedes. It’s not until his love life becomes ensnarled with his politics and the impending war with Rome that the movie becomes interesting. From this point on, the movie is rather engaging, if far-fetched; it relies on certain plot devices (can you say “amnesia”?) that seem very contrived. However, given the dearth of superstrong musclemen, the movie can’t rely on the usual elements that qualify a movie as belonging to the fantastic genres. This one gets in as science fiction, as I suspect that the the mirror reflecting device that is used to set fire to the Roman fleet during the battle scenes (the world’s first death-ray?) never existed in real life. All in all, it’s uneven, but it has its moments.


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