Release Date(s)1961 (June 26, 2018)
Studio(s)Produzioni Atlas Consorziate/Cine-Produzioni Associate Procusa/MGM (The Warner Archive)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D+
Before Sergio Leone set his sights on remaking the story of Yojimbo and helping to transform the Italian film market in the process, he had been working as a writer and second unit director on films like Ben-Hur and The Last Days of Pompeii, honing the skills necessary to produce his future Italian western masterpieces. His first credited work as a director would come with The Colossus of Rhodes, a film that mirrored the large-scale epic films of the past that he had previously worked on, but also brought audiences to a point in time rarely seen on film: the ancient world of Greece in the year 280 B.C. before the rise of the Roman empire.
The story concerns Athenian war hero Darios (Rory Calhoun) who vacations with his uncle Lissipu (George Riaud) on the island of Rhodes upon the debut of a large, recently-erected statue that stands above the harbor as a potential deflection from invading forces. Meanwhile, an underground movement of Phoenician freedom fighters, led by Peliocles (Georges Marchal), seeks to overthrow the tyrannical king Serse (Roberto Camardiel) who has enslaved them all. Finding himself mistakenly targeted as a Greek spy, Darios unwittingly becomes an enemy of Serse’s right hand Thar (Conrado San Martín), who also schemes to overthrow the king, seeing Darios as a threat to his treacherous plans. Even as he vies for the affections of the Colossus-maker’s daughter Diala (Lea Massari), Darios is soon approached by the rebels for aid in combat and to help release them from the bonds of oppression.
As if it’s not clear by now, The Colossus of Rhodes is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, and the synopsis only scratches the surface of the many twists and turns that it takes along the way, some that ultimately matter very little to the overall story. The film was re-written constantly all throughout its production, which makes it not much of a revelation that dialogue-driven scenes and character relationships aren’t that interesting or compelling. Outside of the action sequences, which are well-realized in and of themselves, there’s a cheapness to everything as well. The vistas can be grand when given the opportunity, but some of the sets aren’t nearly as epic in scale as they perhaps should be. Then again, it’s tough to compete when you’re walking in the recently-taken footsteps of films like Quo Vadis, Spartacus, and Ben-Hur.
Above all else, The Colossus of Rhodes gives us a glimpse of a filmmaker who is whetting his cinematic appetite. You can definitely see signs of what Leone would do later on in the Dollars films, particularly during the film’s second half. As a whole, the film is perfectly fine, never reaching the heights of greatness that one would hope for, but not totally failing either.
The Warner Archive Collection brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time with a transfer that’s definitely a step up from its standard definition predecessor, but still a film with inherent visual drawbacks, depending upon your tolerance for soft, grainy presentations. Overall, the images are as sharp and as crisp as you could hope for, given that the original elements are likely not available to cull a more accurate scan from. Grain levels are solid with a high encode to back them up, dipping only with the use of stock footage during the film’s earth-shaking climax. Colors are quite good, as are skin tones, while black levels border on the edge of crush. However, everything appears bright and well-lit within a stable and mostly artifact-free presentation. The audio is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Everything sounds well-balanced without any distortion issues. Dialogue, sound effects, and score are well-separated and clear, yet the film’s vintage sound design, which is fairly flat, is unremarkable. It meets the requirements, but never goes beyond them. Also included is a carried-over audio commentary with Sergio Leone biographer Christopher Frayling, which is surprisingly critical but informative, as well as the original theatrical trailer. All that’s really missing in action is the Italian version of the film, which is around 14 minutes longer. Film element issues likely prevented its inclusion.
Warner Archive rescues another long-sought after title from its vaults with The Colossus of Rhodes. I personally find it to be more of an interesting stepping stone for a fledgling director who is getting his filmmaking toes wet, but others will be more than pleased with finally having it amongst Leone’s other high definition counterparts. In that regard, it comes highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons