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Subj: Peplum review 21: The warrior and Slave Girl (1959)
Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 at 08:48:16 am EDT (Viewed 96 times)
Most Roman Peplum fall into 3 general catergories: One is the musclemen types, where the hero is a superhuman strongman ala Hercules.
The second is the historical epic, along the lines of Spartacus.
The third is a kind of hybrid of the 2, with a muscleman in a semi-historical story.
The warrior and the slave girl is one of the best examples of the 2nd type, the historical epic, my personal favourites. Unlike the musclemen types, this one has good acting, a fine story, solid history, intricate characterizations, and most original, some actual character growth. Unlike most Peplum, the hero actually grows and changes throughout the story.
We start out with a Roman Tribune named Marcus who is visited by his uncle, a senator, who wants to send the veteran Marcus to a new posting to help their family fortunes. We see that Marcus is experienced, confident and arrogant. He refuses to go to Britain as the weather is too cold, or Germany as the women are ugly, or Dacia as he has too many creditors there. Finally he settles on Armenia.
Historically, Armenia was one of the more troublesome Roman provinces. In this story it is ruled by the Armenia king, an 8 year old boy under roman rule, with his much older sister.
But while the ruler obeys Rome, a group of Rebels are under the chieftain Asclepius. Ascepoius is set in opposition to Marcus and is a complex character. Rather than a bad guy, he is a noble rival. Ascepius's wife complains that their rebelious lifestyle has been hard on them and their childern, who have never learned to play. We see that Asclepios is loyal to his cause but also a good husband and father.
The narrartive gets thrown on its head as Marcus captures Ascelpius and his men on his way to the Armenian king. He also captures a patriotic Armenian girl who hates Rome.
Marcus presents the rebel to the Queen and her dangerous Persian advisor.
He meets the Roman governor and his second in command, Lucano, who are also complex characters. Lucano takes Marcus on a tour and he sees the conditions in which the Armenia rebels are tortured, and speaks to Asclepius of his greviances against Rome and the Armenian royals. We see Marcus grow as a character as he sets the prisoners free, despite the governor's protests.
But Asclepious is sent to die as a gladiator, pitted against a lion. Some fantastic stunt work as the stuntman is clearly interacting with a real live lion.
A rebellion, led by Asclepius's wife, saves him. killing the governor. Marcus learns that it was the prisoners he freed that mounted the attack.
And that's just the first half. It does a great job of pitting these two worthy characters against each other. No good guys, just men who are on opposite sides in a war.
Overall, one of the best Peplums I've seen.
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