» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

April 25, 2008
RATING: 8.8/10
Anthony Mann was certainly no stranger to the cinema of the spectacular before undertaking his 1964 masterpiece, The Fall of the Roman Empire. The director had already helmed the epic El Cid [LAS feature] and played an uncredited role in the creation of Spartacus. But this, one of the last pictures he would direct, was perhaps the most complex film of Mann's career, in both scope and realization. Ancient Rome has long been a subject of fascination in film, from the BBC series I, Claudius to Bob Guccione's Caligula [LAS feature] to the HBO series Rome. Maybe it's the unfettered indulgence in sex, food, and pleasure, or perhaps it's the rampant personal and political intrigue of the era that makes it an endless well of source material. The Fall of the Roman Empire keeps it fairly tame, focusing much more on the latter elements, but it's a steamy affair all the same.

The film's plot is a winding one, but here's a brief summation: Caesar Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guinness) has gathered dignitaries from all corners of the Roman Empire to a snowy fortress situated on the line bordering the lands of one of their last enemies, the Barbarians. Caesar's daughter Lucilla (Sophia Loren), a pawn in his power plays, must marry the king of Armenia, Sohamus (Omar Sharif), although she is in love with Livius (Stephen Boyd). Caesar has chosen Livius as his successor over his own son, Commodus (Christopher Plummer), who he feels is not up to the task of controlling Rome's vast empire. Unfortunately, Caesar is murdered without making his wishes clear, and things get progressively more tangled from there.

The enormous set pieces, vast backgrounds, exotic locations, thousands of extras, and intimate dramatic moments all make this lengthy film a masterpiece of its time. Weaned on special effects blockbusters, today's audiences may find the pace slow at times, but the The Fall of the Roman Empire's lack of hyperactive editing really serves to enhance the material. Of course, there are several amazing action pieces to shake things up, such as the initial battle between Roman gladiators and Barbarians in the woods surrounding the fortress, and a furious engagement on chariot between Commodus and Livius. Guinness, in particular, is spectacular as Aurelius, playing the role with gusto and an appropriately regal air. His death scene is a somber, dramatic piece of work. I must say that - and this is probably something bordering heresy - for all of Sophia Loren's beauty, her performance is wooden and uninteresting. The acting delivered by her co-stars, in particular Plummer and Sharif, is far more engaging. Then again, much of Loren's role is relegated to the stoic acceptance of her forced engagement, which can easily be played with one note.

As was the case with the recent Miriam Collection release of El Cid on DVD, The Fall of the Roman Empire is beautifully packaged as a multi-disc set and filled with numerous bonus features. These include a commentary with Bill Bronston (son of producer Samuel Bronston), several informative featurettes, and trailers. The digital picture transfer is colorful and beautiful in widescreen, and the audio is crisp and clear. Fall of the Roman Empire is a glorious, monumental film of its time, and this new three-disc deluxe edition serves its memory well.

Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.



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