Caesar the Conqueror (1962)


a.k.a. - Giulio Cesare, il conquistatore delle Gallie (ITA)

Cameron Mitchell is the Roman Leader in this rather poorly written and helmed Historical Peplum. Filmax Spanish R2 DVD.

The Film

In 58 BC Caesar has conquered Gaul and set his sights on Britain. However after freeing a prisoner named Vercingetorix, Caesar accidentally provides the resistance with a natural leader. He brings together the various tribes and they fight repeatedly with the Romans inflicting many defeats. In Rome the senate dismisses his request for more troops, not wanting to expend soldiers on a campaign that they suspect is just Caesar seeking personal glory. Caesar is recalled to Rome to explain his actions but instead passes secretly through the mountains and returns to Gaul looking to lead the campaign against Vercingetorix.

Although credited as being based on Julius Caesar's famous auto-biographical work Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, the script for Caesar the Conqueror bears no more relation to history than any other generic Historical Peplum. While there was a character named Vercingetorix who rose up against the Romans in Gaul and there are plenty of name checks, very few of the other facts presented here are accurate and the main theme (a love story of course) is completely the invention of the screenwriters. Equally many of the interesting stories from the conflict are missed out, notably the beseigement of the Roman troops as they themselves surrounded half of the Gallic forces in the Seige of Alesia.

The film does open well, with the political wrangling in the Senate and some decent characterisation, but it soon loses its way, becoming very episodic and hard to follow - an interesting sequence, Caesar and a small group crossing the mountains to sneak into Gaul, has enough storyline potential to last a whole film but is rushed over leaving only a few detached scenes that seem completely unnecessary to the plot - in contrast some important elements of the story such as his meeting up with the rest of the armies after crossing the mountains are told only in coversation and not seen. The script really falls apart towards the ending, with poor characterisation making many scenes confusing, while the ending is particularly abrupt.

Little known director Tanio Boccia doesn't do too well - while the dialogue scenes are adequately helmed, the fight and battle scenes look tepid and are often very confusing thanks to jarring editing. The Roman costumes all look good but the Gallic warriors have a strange mix of costumes, some of which look positively Mongolian. Unusually this production was helmed in rural Jugoslavia rather than the normal Spanish desert locations and so the landscape looks suitably French. The soundtrack is a good mix of horns and drums that in particular really suits the battle scenes.

Cameron Mitchell is one of the select group of American actors who made a career in European films during the sixties and his performance here is typically strong. Looking noticably aged he seems to be really enjoying himself in the role and is probably one of the best elements of the film, a change to his usual 'strong silent type' performances. A young looking Rik Battaglia and the pleasantly buxom Dominique Wilms play the Gallic resistance well.

With some rather tepid direction and a none-too impressive storyline, this Historical Peplum would have nothing to recommend it, except for the always enjoyable sight of Cameron Mitchell in full flow as Caesar. Peplum fans might want to seek this one out and it is certainly one for fans of Mitchell but not generally recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Cameron Mitchell - an American actor who made three films for Mario Bava, including Gli Invasori (1961)
Directed by anyone interesting? Tanio Boccia - a little known Italian director who helmed the daft Peplum Sansone contro i pirati (1963) and a few Spaghetti Westerns, including Uccidi o muori (1967)
Any gore or violence ? Quite a number of surprisingly bloody deaths
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Cameron Mitchell fans will certainly enjoy this and Peplum fans might want to check it out.


The DVD
Visuals Cropped - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (OAR is 2.35:1). Colour
The print is of a very varied quality, with some shots very grainy and dark but not too much print damage. The cropping is particularly noticable in a few scenes. Generally watchable and markedly better than most PD prints.
Note: the opening credits are in 2.35:1
Audio English and Spanish mono
The English track sounds fine, although the dubbing is not perfect.
Subtitles Spanish (based on the Spanish audio)
Extras None
Availability Spanish release. DVD Title: Julio CÚsar, El Conquistador de la Galia
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Various low quality 'public domain' releases in the USA.
Cuts? Cut status unknown. The print used is English language, although a title card that appears part way through is in Italian.

Summary

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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 1st March 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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