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Sunday, February 17, 2013

HANNIBAL (1959)

How cult helmer Edgar Ulmer, master of the shoestring budget and the six-day shoot, came on board for this historical epic, one of those Sword-and-Sandal Italian numbers, is a mystery. (And, no doubt, more interesting than this cut-and-paste bio-pic, co-helmed by an uncredited Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia who specialized in these things. [Note the directing credit on our Italian poster.] This helps explain why the costumes, customs & sets are a couple of centuries off.) Victor Mature is the token American star, playing a Hannibal more interested in his Roman mistress than his warrior elephants. But that fits a film where the big set pieces of marching thru the Alps or a final cast-of-thousands battle never gets properly integrated with the political drama Ulmer might have brought something personal to. (A surprisingly decent WideScreen edition from VCI-DVD has an interview with Ulmer & Peter Bogdanovich that goes into this.) Gabriele Ferzetti manages to connect with his noble, but ignored Roman Senator, and Mario Girotti, that handsome young man playing his son turns out to be Spaghetti Western star Terence Hill. As these things go, it’s pretty conventional dumb matinee stuff. But then, who wants to see Edgar Ulmer working in a conventional mode?

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The place to start with Ulmer is his micro-budgeted masterwork, DETOUR/’45. Lots of rotten Public Domain editions to avoid. IMAGE probably is the best of a bad lot.

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