GIANT OF MARATHON, THE (Battaglia di Maratona, La) (director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriter: story by Alberto Barsanti/Bruno Vailati/Ennio de Concini/Augusto Frassinetti; cinematographer: Mario Bava; editor: Mario Serandrei; music: Roberto Nicolosi; cast: Steve Reeves (Philippides), Mylene Demongeot (Andromeda), Sergio Fantoni (Theocritus), Alberto Lupo (Miltiades), Daniele Varga (Darius, King of Persia), Miranda Campa (Un’Ancella), Ivo Garrani (Kreusos), Daniela Rocca (Karis), Sergio Ciani (Euros); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bruno Vailati; Alpha Video; 1959-Italy/France-in English)
“… this ridiculous adventure tale comes to a better end than could be expected.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A pedestrian sword-and-sandal B-film that’s surprisingly well-plotted but not surprisingly is poorly acted. Under the skillful direction of the great Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People”/”I Walked With A Zombie”) and the terrific photography of the gruesome battle scenes by cinematographer Mario Bava of Italy, this ridiculous adventure tale comes to a better end than could be expected. Supposedly Bava finished directing the film and was rewarded a year later by Galatea Film to direct his own project–La Maschera del Demonio. This launched Bava’s legendary cult horror career as a filmmaker. The Giant of Marathon is based on a story by Alberto Barsanti and written by Bruno Vailati, Ennio de Concini and Augusto Frassinetti.
The muscular Athenian peasant, Philippides (Steve Reeves), is the Olympic champion in 490 B.C., in Athens, Greece, defeating his rival Euros from Sparta. As a reward he’s made leader of the Athenian Sacred Guard, which consists of one hundred men who protect the temple of Athena. Behind Philippides’s back the venerable ruling council member Kreusos (Ivo Garrani) is foolishly talked into secretly betraying the Athenians to the Persians for their own good by another council member, the vile Theocritus (Sergio Fantoni), who has been promised much power in the new regime by Persian King Darius (Daniele Varga). The treacherous Theocritus is engaged to the unsuspecting Kreusos’s pretty daughter Andromeda (Mylene Demongeot). After Theocritus’ unsuccessful stab at luring hunky Philippides over to his side by offering him the beautiful slave woman Karis (Daniela Rocca), it’s learned that Philippides has the hots for Andromeda–someone he’s smitten with by watching her from afar tossing a ball with her handmaidens. Philippides will learn Andromeda’s true identity when the sneaky Theocritus invites him to dine at Kreusos’s house. Theocritus then tells Philippides that Persia will invade Athens with its overwhelming fleets and offers Philippides a trade of Andromeda in marriage for his support of Theocritus during the conflict. Our hero turns down this request with a look of disgust. Soon after, Darius and his thousand-man army land at the plain of Marathon and start hurling giant rocks down on the Athenians. The outnumbered Athenians valiantly fight back and refuse to surrender as their commander-in-chief Miltiades (Alberto Lupo) promises to fight until death, but decides their best chance for survival is to get Sparta on their side by convincing them they’ll be next on Darius’s hit list. The dastardly Theocritus argues before the council to surrender to save the Athenians from slaughter, but it’s decided to send Philippides, the only “Athenian beyond all suspicion,” to enlist help from Sparta to save their Greece. The cold-hearted Theocritas abducts Andromeda and threatens to kill her unless Kreusos goes along with his scheme. When Kreusos refuses, he’s mortally wounded by Theocritus and realizes how wrong he had been in trusting such a monster. On his way to Sparta, Philippides meets the spear wounded Karis outside his army camp and in her dying last breaths she gives him the info that she overheard Theocritus suggesting to Darius that the Persians attack on the next day in the rear of the Athenians. It leads to the well-realized climactic battle scene, which comes with an imaginative underwater fight sequence.
REVIEWED ON 9/13/2006 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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