The Sign of the Gladiator
Starring: Georges Marchal, Anita Eckberg
Duration: 92 Minutes
Rating: The SBS(?) recommended parental guidance
Watch it here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc1oh3cenqQ
Well, to start off with.... where the feth is the Gladiator? Where is his sign? I honestly don't know. If I was cynical, I would say the movie is only named the Sign of the Gladiator to get you to think it was a Gladiator movie so you would watch it. If that was the case, it worked on this sucker.
In reality, this is supposed to be a Historical Epic! Thank goodness I like those too. Okay, it may not be much on the epicness, but it actually does okay on the Historical front.
Queen Zenobia has recently broken her alliance with the Romans. Her armies have overrun the Roman garrison, and she has declared her people free of Roman rule. The Roman Consul Marcus Valerius had been defeated by her armies. However, he refuses to kneel before her. Instead, she sends him to the slave mines.
Here, we see a standard trope of the genre of slaves working a mill under and evil taskmaster. One of the slaves falls beneath the wheel, and his arm is crushed. The Palmyran guards plan to kill him, but Valerius steps in and stops them. For helping save the life of a slave and former legionnaire, Valerius is placed on a cross in the desert heat. Another trope, this thing is batting a thousand so far.
Queen Zenobia, comes to visit the slaves; and finds the Roman being punished. They have a brief exchange between the Queen, Valerius, and the queen’s conniving advisor Semantius. We know he is bad because he has a dark beard, cropped close, and is a portly fellow. Nice stereotyping movie! This scene has a nice exchange about how life can be a greater punishment than death.
Cut to some people we haven’t seen before as they break into a temple. Looks like Valerius isn’t the only Roman still hanging around Palmyra. Julian (such a nice Roman name, right up there with Marcus) is in love with the temple’s Vestal Virgin; Bethsheba. Together, they plot to rescue Valerius with the help of a not-so-evil-Christian slavemaster. I don’t know much about Vestal Virgins (Stop the cat calling in back!), but I thought that was more of a Roman practice?
Anyway, Julian and Lator (The Christian Dude) spring Valerius in a surprisingly boring escape involving fire and running horses. This is followed by a scene where Julian holds the blade of a Gladius and uses the pommel as a hammer to release the chains of Marcus. That has got to be the worst use of a sword I have ever seen. Anyway, Valerius is convinced he can’t go back to Rome defeated, and instead hatches a plot to join Zenobia, and take revenge on her. That’s our hero folks.
Stuff happens. Valerius manages to get back in the good graces of Zenobia. Sematius is revealed to be a Persiaphile. Bathsheba flees the temple, but is recaptured to be sacrificed. There is an obligatory slave girl dancing scene. The Romans come back and the stage is set for a big battle between the Palmyran’s and the Romans. Excitement all around.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this is the standard Romantic sub-plot between Valerius and Zenobia. He’s a hard hearted Roman politician, and she is the warm hearted, idealist yearning to breathe free. Together, they tour the ruins of old Palmyra, and discuss the existential meaning of life. Zenobia shows off her impressive cleavage, and the two embrace. Of course, before the deal can be consummated, an assassin half-heartedly interrupts. Boo-who.
Of course, the plot thickens, as our hero goes to the Romans and tells them Palmyra’s battle plans. Is he smitten with Zenobia, is it part of a trick to regain his lost Roman Honor? Oh the melodrama of it all! Of course, our Hero wants to have it all! He wants to be an honorable Roman, and get with Zenobia too! What is Valerius to do?
Of course, before the final battle, we have to wrap up the Bathsheba sub-plot. After all, she was kidnapped and is scheduled to be sacrificed. What will Julian do to rescue his Love?
In addition, Semantius schemes with the Persians to take control of Palmyra as well. An army of Persians marches towards Palmyra, while the Romans and Palmyrans prepare for their final battle. Will Semantius’ treachery win the day?
The final battle comes. Who will win? No matter who wins rest assured, no gladiators were involved. Grrrr! However, the movie does have the Roman soldiers actually throw their Pulims (javelins) instead of using them like a spear. Kudos film! However, it also pads the final battle out with the same shot reused over, and over, and over, and over, and over, again. The film manages to wrap it all up in the final 15 minutes in a nice little bow.
Final Thoughts: This movie should have been called the Sign of the Peacock, because at least it actually has a frikkin’ Peacock in it!
Here’s the real story of Zenobia here: http://www.allempires.com/article/index.php?q=zenobia
They movie actually got a lot of the set-up for this film right. Well, except for some reason, Zenobia is a blonde? Of course, after the set-up, it goes off to tell its own story. However, it is at least plausible, with no glaring historical errors.
Queen Zenobia as recently broken her alliance with the Romans.