(WARNER ARCHIVES) (1961) 127 mins.
AR: 2.3:1. Commentary by Christopher Frayling.
Directed by Sergio Leone. Screenplay by Leone and several others. Cinematography by Antonio Ballesteros. Production Design by Ramiro Gomez.
With: Rory Calhoun, Lea Massari, Georges Marchal.
Blu-ray review by Roy Frumkes
Unless Warner’s restoration department received pristine negative materials, I’m going to give them credit for a superb job on this ramped up Sword-and-Sandal epic, the first official film directed by Italian stylist Sergio Leone (easily as strong a stylist as Fellini or Antonioni), soon to give us the DOLLARS trilogy and revolutionize the face of both Western and Action cinema. He tries here to find his voice but fails partially due to the casting and partially to accommodating the trope-clogged ‘formula.’ Still it’s undeniably enjoyable, oozing with art direction from different historical periods, and gives us the occasional hint as to what was to come from the director.
Commentator Christopher Frayling, a Leone aficionado, does a swell job analyzing the film, and resists calling it more of an accomplishment than it is, for which he is to be lauded. On the subject of Rory Calhoun – ill-fit into the starring role but nonetheless compellingly odd – Frayling posits that the role was probably intended for Steve Reeves, the American body-builder and non-actor who launched the genre with HERCULES. I have to agree. Leone later offered Reeves A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, which the actor turned down, leaving the role up for grabs…by Clint Eastwood. In acknowledging his rejection of what might have been his only great role, Reeves told me with amusement (and no regrets whatsoever) “Can you see me smoking one those thin little cigars?”
Aside from the cast, which is above adequate, you will notice that there is no ‘music by’ acknowledgment in the credits above. Great as Leone was, Ennio Morricone was equally good if not better. Talk about revolutionizing an art form! I used to argue with Page Cook – FIR’s filmusic columnist – about the score to THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. He maintained that it was noise, not music. I guess it was either you got it or you didn’t, and Page was entrenched in Hollywood’s past as concerned film scores. Anyway, the score for COLOSSUS is uninspired and at no point memorable. All this would change for Leone, and very soon.
The screening group enjoyed the film, and thought it important, being Leone’s first feature. I guess if you’re a devotee of the director’s oeuvre, you should have it no matter what, but the commentary makes it even more collectible. Frayling points out where little Leone-esque touches creep into the film, which is informative on a second viewing. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold