Genoveffa di Brabante (1964)

a.k.a. - Revenge of the Crusader

Alberto Lupo stars in a medieval Euro-adventure film written by Riccardo Freda. MYA USA R0 DVD.

The Film

In Medieval Italy, two families, the Treviris and the Brabants, have been feuding for generations - but when Count Sigfrido di Treviri rides to the aide of his Brabant rival who is being attacked by bandits and is wounded, the Brabant family take him in as their guest to recover and he falls for their daughter Genoveffa whom he marries before returning to his own kingdom, declaring a peace between the families. However, Sigfrido's aide Golo is opposed to this peace and when Sigfrido is called away to take part in the crusades he has the pregnant Genoveffa locked up and accused of infidelity.

Based on a script by cult director Riccardo Freda, Genoveffa di Brabante is a classic medieval adventure story, quite closely based on the popular Italian tale of the same name, which had previously been the subject of a number of plays and operas as well as a few films, including La leggenda di Genoveffa (1952). The storyline is simple - it never particularly specifies the location or year of the film, nor the background to the familial feud - but it is effective and for the first half at least it provides a well paced story with a few good fight scenes and a plausible romance that for once is integral to the story and not just tacked on.

Unfortunately in the second half the film begins to lose its way - Sigfrido's trip to the Middle East seems to consist of little more than sitting in a tent (although this may have had more to do with a limited budget than poor scripting - the production certainly does not seem up for providing epic battle scenes) and the subplot of Genoveffa fleeing her captors and raising her son in a cave might be based on the original legend, but this film has set-up a quite realistic atmosphere and these scenes just come off as inane with some attempts at emotion falling completely flat because of the utter implausibility of the setting - the film would probably have worked considerably better had the script given some measure of explanation, for example as to why she continues to hide in the cave for so long when her own family's lands are not far away. The previously good pacing is all but none existant in these scenes and the film starts to drag endlessly - even a few gratuitous fight scenes might have helped but we get nothing until the climactic duel which is at least a highlight of the film and runs to a good length - unfortunately a determinedly sappy ending drags out much too long.

Although Freda is credited with the script, direction is attributed to Spanish director José Luis Monter (who worked as assistant director on the first film in this Italian/Spanish co-production deal, Giulietta e Romeo (1964)) - Freda was not generally one who scripted films for others, so whether this is yet another case of him being fired or walking out on a production he was meant to be helming, or if the credits were split for quota purposes, is unclear. Whoever directed it it, Genoveffa di Brabante is generally well filmed with some effective fight scenes (particularly the big ending duel) and certainly looks the part with use of real castles (rather than just matte paintings) and lots of realistic period costumes. Like the script however the production falls away somewhat in the second half - the Crusades sequence clearly uses the same locations as the earlier exteriors and never captures the required atmosphere, while the daft cave sequences are rendered pure absurdity thanks to an obviously set-bound cave and a hilariously fake looking deer.

There are no particularly well known names in the cast, but acting is generally decent. Alberto Lupo as Sigfrido looks the part as a medieval knight and the beautiful María José Alfonso has a tough part to play as his wife although rather bizarrely despite being heavily pregnant in several scenes, she never has a 'bump', nor does she really look like she has been living ferally for four years (more like a rather rushed make-up session). Canadian actor Stephen Forsyth (Il rosso segno della follia (1970)) is probably the best cast, ably playing the sinister Golo.

Riccardo Freda's attempt to capture the atmosphere of this classic Italian legend falls rather flat when he tries to combine a realistic historical drama with a fairytale storyline. Combined with a production that is certainly not up for providing the big action scenes (or even the convincing locations) required by a Crusades setting, Genoveffa di Brabante stands as a disappointingly weak film, particularly considering the potential built-up in the first half and the solid acting from Lupo and Forsyth. Of interest but certainly not recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one of note.
Directed by anyone interesting? José Luis Monter - the credited director, a little known Spanish film-maker who worked as assistant director on Le tre spade di Zorro (1963) and later directed the Spaghetti Western Lo sceriffo che non spara (1965)
Who else was involved? Riccardo Freda - officially credited as screenwriter, although he may well have directed. An Italian director who helmed a lot of Pepla and adventure films but is best known for his horror, including Lo Spettro (1963).
Any gore or violence ? A little blood.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Of interest to Euro-adventure fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The picture quality of the original print is solid with no damage and good colours and detail.
The transfer has occasional stuttering with the image freezing for a second. Distracting but infrequent enough to ignore.
Note: The opening credits are presented from a lower quality source.
Audio Italian mono - sounds good, a little crackling in the background but dialogue and music are strong.
Subtitles English - these translate the Italian reasonably well, although there are a lot of silly mistakes that a quick scan over by a native English speaker could have corrected.
Extras None
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Not otherwise available.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is Italian.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 28th December 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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