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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ATTILA (1954)

It may sound like a low-budget/low-brow Sword-and-Sandal muscleman pic (helmer Pietro Francisci did go on to start the HERCULES cycle of the late-‘50s), but this is actually a big-budget/low-brow historical about everyone’s favorite Hun, with Anthony Quinn moonlighting off Fellini’s LA STRADA as a growlly Attila. In fact, there’s a whole legit cast in here: from Hollywood, Eduardo Ciannelli; Sophia Loren, fresh off a career breakthru in GOLD OF NAPLES/’54; Irene Papas (not that you’d recognize her); and from France, Henri Vidal & Christian Marquand. Starry behind the lens, too, with Aldo Tonti supported by no less than two legends, Giuseppe Rotunno & Karl Struss. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis & Carlo Ponti, this film has a lot going for it . . . on paper. But what a wobbly vehicle for all the effort. Everything feels inauthentic, even when they (occasionally) try to stick to the facts. A shame, since the details they avoid are far more interesting than what we get. And with a short running time of 75 minutes, why not carry on thru Attila’s dancing death on his wedding night? Instead, a lame attempt to equate Attila with Hitler and battle scenes with herds of horsemen. Maybe funds got tight; maybe Quinn was ready to get back to the States; or maybe it’s a story that works at either 75 minutes or three hours. These films tend to fall into Public Domain purgatory, but LionsGate, in a SOPHIA LOREN collection, offers a pretty decent transfer.

DOUBLE-BILL: After Anthony Quinn’s ATTILA, why not Victor Mature’s HANNIBAL/’59? This one really is Sword-and-Sandal crap, largely of interest because B-pic cult figure Edgar Ulmer takes directing credit.

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