The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)


Rory Calhoun, or proto-George Clooney as I like to call him, stars in this kinda silly but kinda fun sword-and-sandals flick that earned Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America) his first major directing credit. Calhoun plays a visiting war hero on the island of Rhodes who gets tangled in a rebel uprising and a Phoenician conquest. He also falls in love with the daughter of an engineer who has constructed a colossal statue of Apollo in front of the Rhodes harbor. The statue turns out to be a tactical weapon with secrets that get revealed as the story goes on.

If you’re looking for any of Leone’s style, you might be disappointed. This movie was a last-minute ‘for hire’ job for the young director, and the end product is not one he liked to include among his credits. It’s still very competently mounted and executed, though. The script is a little long in its first half, but moves more briskly in the second. None of the male actors are very good (or perhaps their performances are marred by across-the-board dubbing), but the love interest (Lea Massari) musters some charisma. The script thankfully gives her a little more to do than just ‘look pretty’. The costumes are a bit cheesy, but the sets are grand and luxurious. Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s often bombastic score surely inspired the music for 1982’s Conan the Barbarian.

If you love the homo-eroticism of these sorts of movies, The Colossus of Rhodes won’t disappoint. All the men walk around with at least one nipple exposed, and in a skirmish, the ass and crotch are always the first to get exposed (nice bikini underwear, boys). But it’s also enjoyable as a straight matinee action flick. Highlights include a hand-to-hand combat sequence on Apollo’s shoulders, some deadly gladiatorial games, and a climactic earthquake.

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