Gold For the Caesars (1963)
Here’s a slightly above average effort from the Peplum frenzy that stormed Italy until Leone sent the genre packing by solidifying the next craze with the release of A Fistful O Dollars. Like the westerns to follow, Peplum or sword and sandal flicks if you prefer brought in some well known Hollywood faces to boost interest. In this case we get Jeffrey Hunter who looks fine in his toga and leathery outfits.
In this outing, Hunter is a well treated slave due to his knowledge of architecture and the Romans have put him to use in their desire to conquer and pillage Spain. He’s currently working for Maximus (Massimo Girotti) and putting the finishing touches to a glorious bridge leading to a mountain that is supposedly filled with gold. Through the use of diplomacy, Maximus makes an uneasy alliance with the Spaniard forces that occupy the area.
Into Hunter’s circle comes the blonde slave girl Penelope played by Mylene Demongeot. She’s well kept and enjoys the finer things bestowed upon her by her Master and lover, Maximus. But Hunter has that leading man appeal and looks to give her pause. And so the drama begins. Maximus needs Hunter’s knowledge in architecture and mining the gold. But he isn’t happy with his personal slave falling for the handsome architect.
A deal is struck where by if Hunter can supply enough gold for Maximus to gain power with the senate, he will become a free man. But treachery and deceit are sure to invade the plot and script of this film credited to director Andre De Toth.
As far as sword and sandal features go, this one tries it’s best to give us plenty of sword play and heroics as the slaves battle back against the tyranny of Rome. Then there is the customary orgy of wine and women for the benefit of the target audience when these films were in vogue. The blood flows freely as the final reel is upon us when Hunter goes hand to hand against Maximus in a dynamic conclusion utilizing some fancy editing to create a bit more spectacle then the average Peplum feature.
While Jeffrey Hunter doesn’t have the physique of the Hercules gang including Steve Reeves and Reg Park, he does seem at home in a tale of Rome. He had already starred in King of Kings and looking at him here it’s a wonder he didn’t find work in something along the lines of The Fall of The Roman Empire or other big budget extravaganzas. He surely looks better here then poor Alan Ladd did In 1961’s Duel of the Champions. Sorry Alan, you’re still one of my favorites so all is forgiven.
Hunter would wind up contributing to the next Italian craze by appearing in the 1967 spaghetti western, The Christmas Kid before finding everlasting science fiction fame as Captain Pyke in the Star Trek pilot/episode The Menagerie. And for us western fans, there is of course The Searchers.
Andre De Toth was primarily at the end of his run as a director having had his greatest successes in the fifties with westerns featuring Randolph Scott, the noir tinged, Crime Wave and of course the 3D classic, The House of Wax.
Gold For the Caesars is available through the Warner Archive Collection and is a good example of the Archive presenting us film buffs with movies that are all but forgotten.