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Friday, March 25, 2011

Sign Of The Pagan (1954)

A Roman centurion (Jeff Chandler) on his way to Constantinople with a message from Rome is taken prisoner by the notorious Atilla the Hun (Jack Palance), who is plotting with the Emperor of Constantinople (George Dolenz) to destroy Rome. This colorful sword and sandal epic was the first film director Douglas Sirk shot in the CinemaScope format (along with his frequent cinematographer Russell Metty) and he takes to the format like a duck to water. Sirk, best known for his lush melodramas, isn't the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of Atilla the Hun but he does a more than credible job in keeping things quickly moving on this enjoyable piece of hokum so we don't have time to dwell on the absurdness of turning a film about Atilla's attack on Rome into a "biblical" epic with frequent references to Christ watching over Rome. The film not only has the Pope coming to negotiate with Atilla but even has Atilla's daughter (Rita Gam) finding God and becoming Christian. Palance is quite good here, dirty and greasy among all the cleanliness. The Universal backlot masquerades as Rome and the rousing score is by Frank Skinner and Hans J. Salter. The large cast includes Ludmilla Tcherina (THE RED SHOES), Jeff Morrow, Allison Hayes, Alexander Scourby, Michael Ansara, Leo Gordon and Sara Shane.

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