Romulus and Remus (1961)

a.k.a. - Romolo e Remo (ITA) Duel of the Titans (USA)

Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott star in Sergio Corbucci's well written and directed Peplum epic. Koch Media Germany R0 DVD.

The Film

A woman places her two baby boys into a basket in a river to hide them. The babies are discovered by a she-wolf who raises them until they are discovered by a shepherd who takes them in as his sons. Years later the boys are grown into men - Romulus (Steve Reeves) and Remus (Gordon Scott). Along with their father, they are visiting a religious event intending to steal horses, however, Romulus falls for a women named Julia and although learning that she is the daughter of the Sabine King, he takes her hostage as the group flee with their horses and is eventually tracked down and captured by the Sabine warriors. Meanwhile the shepherd has learnt that the mother of the boys is alive, a High Priestess of Vespa. Mortally wounded by an arrow during the horse stealing, he tells Remus before he dies. Remus sets out to free Romulus and they meet up with their mother who tells them of her vision that they will found a city a long journey away, but while Romulus is happy to work together, Remus feels that he should be in change of the undertaking himself and as they feud, the Sabine warriors close in again...

Co-written by Sergio Corbucci along with Sergio Leone and a whole host of genre regulars, Romulus and Remus tackles the classic legends surrounding the founding of Rome. Various different incarnations of the tale exist, but the script writes its own story with only the opening and closing scenes particularly linked to the well known versions of the legend. In keeping with most of the Historical Epic Pepla, the supernatural is avoided here and although there are plenty of references to the Gods, we never see any of their actions. On its own, the script provides a pretty typical epic film with some big battle scenes, arena fight sequences and feats of heroism. What makes the film stand-out is the solid characterisation which helps to make the feud between Romulus and Remus convincing and gives the final conflict some real emphasis, it also makes the 'villians' of the piece more than just generic bad-guys. The four-sided romantic triangle is nothing special but is fortunately unoffensive, in the background a romance hinted at between some of the minor characters goes nowhere and seems rather pointless but again it is very brief and does not harm the flow of the film.

While many of the Traditional Pepla were naturally light hearted, their Historical cousins usually took a more serious approach and although the script here is no rival for Corbucci's later, almost nihilistic Spaghetti Westerns, there are several quite dark sequences but balanced out with some more light hearted scenes. As was common with the Italian titles from the era, and compared to the sprawling American epics, Romulus and Remus is very short, running to just over 100 minutes so it never drags and with the strong characterisation even the dialogue scenes remain interesting (on many epics they are nothing but filler between the battles). It all builds up to the inevitable but surprisingly tense climactic fight between the brothers.

Sergio Corbucci helms his first genre title and gives a strong turn ably supported by cinematographer Enzo Barboni who would go on to work with Corbucci on such films as Django (1966) and is making his film debut here. As per the script, the film is directed with a very serious overtone, the fight and battle scenes in particular are very tense - a large cast of extras and realistic sets and locations help to make these scenes look very good. A volcanic eruption later on in the film is the only sequence that could have looked bad and does contain some rather obvious stock shots, but it generally works quite well. Italian composer Piero Piccioni gives the film a solid orchestral soundtrack backing.

The musclebound and improbably dashing Steve Reeves was the true star of the Peplum and obvious casting as one of the brothers, particularly since he played their ancestor Aeneas in The Trojan Horse. The producers apparently wanted him to play both brothers, but instead Reeves suggested the ex-Tarzan actor Gordon Scott for the role. The duo give a great performance and look similar enough to be twins, with some impressively good acting (something for which the genre is often derided) and a solid rapport that helps to give backing to the well written storyline. Italian beauty Virna Lisi (who always suited brunette hair better - cf. Eva (1962)) gives an early performance as the love interest while genre regular Jacques Sernas gets an unusually villaneous role as her jealous suitor. There are a few familiar faces in the rest of the cast, Spaghetti Western fans will doubtless recognise Piero Lulli, and performances all round are generally strong.

One of the most enjoyable Peplum historical epics Romulus and Remus does not hold particularly true to the legends but does have an effective storyline with some well helmed battle scenes and a fantastic pair of lead performances. It comes recommended to all fans of the historical epics and a must see for fans of Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Steve Reeves - the big American Peplum star who also starred in the epic The Trojan Horse (1961).
Gordon Scott - a musclebound American actor who made his name with six Tarzan movies in the late 1950s.
Directed by anyone interesting? Sergio Corbucci - an Italian director who would become famous a few years later for the legendary Spaghetti Western Django (1966) as well as the later Hellbenders (1967) and Great Silence (1969).
Any gore or violence ? Nothing unusually violent - no blood. Some very harsh looking horse trips and falls.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Certainly for fans of Historical Epics and Pelpa as well as fans of the two musclebound leads.

See Also:
The Trojan Horse (1961)
War of the Trojans (1962)
Steve Reeves plays Romulus and Remus' ancestor Aeneas, a survivor of Troy who lead a band of survivors to settle in modern-day Italy.
Il Ratto delle sabine (1961) Roger Moore plays Romulus in the Peplum adapation of The Rape of the Sabine Women, the next part of the tale of the founding of Rome.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
Strong print throughout, some grain and light speckling and scratches, but great colours
Audio English and German mono - sounds good.
The German audio is missing in a couple of scenes which are played in English.
The English track has some slight hiss compared to the German but it is otherwise good.
Subtitles German - infill for the missing scenes only.
Extras The disc includes:
  • An interview with Giovanni Cianfriglia who was Steve Reeves' body double in several Pepla. In Italian with German subs only. (7 min).
  • English langauge trailer. (5 min)
  • Extensive photo and poster gallery, manually scrolling.
The DVD case includes a short booklet, in German only, about the background to the film.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Packaging A cardboard slipcase containing a standard Amaray style case.
Availability German release. DVD Title: Romulus und Remus
Other regions? None known.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. The print used is Italian.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 20th December 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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