Cult Camp Classics Vol. 4 - Historical Epics (DVD)
Who says history has to be boring? Warner Bros.' series of "cult classics" is a cheese-popcorn fiesta just waiting to pop. This set includes three "historical" epics long on action and cleavage and proudly short on those dull pesky facts. The Colossus of Rhodes
(1961), a splashy toga party starring Rory Calhoun, marks Sergio Leone's credited directorial debut. As sword-and-sandal films go, it's a rollicking tale with excellent special effects, especially the earthquake and its resulting devastation.
Howard Hawks took time in between Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rio Bravo to direct Land of the Pharoahs (1955), with a cast of thousands, led by the heaving bosoms of Joan Collins. No expense was spared, with nearly 10,000 extras "and 1600 camels in the production!" as the marketing materials of the time proclaim. William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay, which features delicious turns of events like a lying, scheming so-and-so getting comeuppance by, yes, being sealed alive in a pyramid: "A structure to house one man--and the greatest treasure of all time."
And The Prodigal (1955), directed by Richard Thorpe, tells the ancient biblical tale of two toiling brothers, but ups the ante for the wandering son with a decidedly ungodly pagan temptress in the form of Lana Turner (it's a wonder he ever made it back to his father's farm!). Originally an MGM release, The Prodigal hearkens to the mid-'50s era of the great biblical epic (which many fans believe is due for a renaissance), though it takes extreme liberties with Jesus's parable. Then again, if Lana Turner's figure doesn't signify "debauchery" and "riotous living," what does?
The boxed set also includes some very instructional extras, like vintage interviews with Hawks and contemporary interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and film historians. Let the catapulting begin! --A.T. Hurley