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Sword and Sandal flicks and Orientalism


I read a snippet about a scathing review of The Sign of Rome over at Zenobia, Empress of the East today and I have to admit it: I love sword and sandal flicks from the 1950’s and 60’s. The name actually comes from Italian cinema and while I am ignorant of that part of its history I use the term here to refer to mostly American made films that tend to be in the same genre. I managed to find an interesting book a few years back on the history of Rome thru film that gives a critical reading of many of these types of films and one day I plan to get around to reading it, along with Edward Said’s Orientalism but that day has not yet arrived. Right now, both books are sitting on two different book shelves and I will eventually finish school and have time to read critically and for the sheer experience and insight of learning again, about topics I find of interest but for now, I have a set row to hoe.  But even though it’s old, I have to say that while HBO and the BBC trashed the known history of Mark Antony, Cleopatra and Octavian with its depiction of Attia in Rome, it made for good drama. I loved Vorenus and Pullo as well and thought the last line was a snarky way to comment on the politics of the time and in my view, the show only ran for two seasons because of the censors who couldn’t handle the heat that this historical depiction made about politics and business as usual, as the ideal created by history and some would say Orientalism of the Roman Republic is damn near sacrosanct in the Western world. I think the show was discreetly railroaded off the air and that otherwise we might have gotten at least a third season out of it.

here is a link to stills from Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in slide show format and here is a link to flickcharts Best sword and sandal flicks of all time.

And for what its worth, I can still quote a handful of lines that kicked ass from the 1967 version of Cleopatra, imperialist ideological pagan that I am.

 

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