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Cult Camp Classics 4 - Historical Epics (The Colossus of Rhodes / Land of the Pharaohs / The Prodigal)

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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(Jun 26, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Special Features

  • Includes:
  • The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)
  • Commentary by film historian Christopher Frayling
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Color,

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 26, 2007
  • Run Time: 344 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000OHZJI2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,621 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Cult Camp Classics 4 - Historical Epics (The Colossus of Rhodes / Land of the Pharaohs / The Prodigal)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2007
There was a time where camp classics weren't exactly intentional but were every bit as enjoyable as the camp films we have now. "Historical Epics" is the fourth in Warner Home Video's "Cult Camp Classics" and at least two of these three films are actually quite good outside of the classification.

The first "The Colossus of Rhodes" was the first film that Sergio Leone took credit on as a director. Set during during the Hellenistic era before the rise of Rome, this film features cowboy b-movie star Rory Calhoun as a Greek(!) hero vacationing in Rhodes who gets pulled into an attempt to overthrow the Emperor. The centerpiece of this film a 180 foot high statue that stood astride the waterways of Rhodes and could be used as a weapon to defend the city by dumping hot molten lead on invaders or would be revolutionaries.

Featuring risable dialogue, great action sequences and impressive production design, this international production (featuring actors from Italy, Spain, America and France)features a number of stunning set pieces that hint at Leone's great Italian Westerns such as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West". The film looks quite good with an excellent commentary track by Leone biographer and film historian Christopher Frayling who covers everything from the historical context of the film (the real statue of Rhodes was believed to be about 38 feet high and overlooked the city)and the original theatrical trailer. Frayling points out the good (Leone's stunning use of the camera), the bad (often the dialogue is quite ripe)and the ugly (the overwrought performances of some of the actors)but still finds merit in the film.
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Though these movies can be viewed as campy sword 'n sandle flicks, two of the three are actually pretty good. All three are in color and anamorphic 'scope, and two even have multi-track sound. The images are crisp and clear, with no sign of fading.
The Colossus of Rhodes was directed by Sergio Leone, with impressive visuals and a huge cast of extras. The weakest (and most laughable) part of the film is Rory Calhoun's leading character, but the rest of the cast is fine - though the plot is overly-complex. Rory, a visiting hero from Athens, leads a slave revolt, amid treacherous plots to enslave peaceful Rhodes.
Land of the Pharaohs was produced and directed by Howard Hawks and written by no less than William Faulkner. The leads are played by Jack Hawkins and Joan Collins. Hawkins portrays a king obsessed with accumulating wealth for the afterlife, along with building a tomb to house himself and the gold. Collins plays a scheming princess who wants the gold for herself. Joan Collins is far from the stereotype she became in later years, and her acting ability leaves no doubt as to why Hawkins' Pharaoh falls for her.
The Prodigal, retelling the Biblical story of the prodigal son, is the only truly campy film among the three. There are lots of processions, ponderous dialog, pagan temples, and a beautiful pagan priestess to tempt the hero. Lana Turner may be beautiful, but she needs to take tempting-the-hero lessons from Joan Collins. Speaking of camp, at one point we see a long wall where various slaves are lined up for sale, with descriptions and prices written on the wall next to each slave - written in english of course. Now that's camp!
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Some movie genres have definitely died over the years. The Western used to dominate but has petered out to maybe a movie or two per year of any note. Musicals are doing similarly, with the occasional success just showing how sparse the offerings are nowadays. The so-called sword-and-sandal flicks have, if anything, done even worse, with just a few significant offerings in the past decade, most notably Gladiator (others include Troy and Alexander).

Volume 4 of Warner Brothers Cult Camp Classics takes up back to the golden era of sword-and-sandal films (and their close cousins, Bible films). This set, titled Historical Epics, feature three entertaining if not particularly good examples of the genre.

First up is The Prodigal, very loosely based on the parable of the prodigal son. Edmund Purdom plays the title character, the son of a successful Jewish farmer in 70 B.C. who falls for a pagan high priestess and forsakes his family and fiancee to pursue her. Lana Turner plays the priestess who is essentially a high-priced call girl, and the price Purdom will be dear indeed, but if you're familiar with the prodigal son story, you know how it will all turn out in the end.

Next is The Colossus of Rhodes, most notable for being Sergio Leone's first credited directorial effort. If you're expecting the same stylistic film as with his Spaghetti Westerns, you're in for a disappointment: the direction is almost all by-the-book. The story has Rory Calhoun as an Athenian soldier on vacation in Rhodes during a time of intrigue with Phoenicia. Straddling the harbor is the Colossus, not merely a giant statue (far bigger than the historical version), but also an elaborate machine filled with traps for unwanted visitors to the island.
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