The golden age of ancient Rome meets the silver screen with “Swords and Sandals,” a film and lecture series this fall where faculty members at Fitchburg State University will introduce and contextualize these classics.
The series is sponsored by the Center for Italian Culture at Fitchburg State and the university’s Classics Society.
To the movie-going public of the late 1950s and 1960s, these popular films provided a plethora of action and spectacle with supernaturally strong heroes, diabolical villains and mythological creatures.
“The series is really a retrospective of a critically important but often overlooked genre of Italian film,” said Daniel Sarefield, the assistant professor of history who proposed the “Swords and Sandals” series. “For today’s audiences reared on cinematic spectacles like ‘Troy’ and ‘Gladiator,’ these movies should prove to be fun and campy. Although their special effects may seem somewhat dated compared to modern CGI-driven blockbusters, their sets, costumes, and stars are first-rate. They should be a real delight to watch.”
The series opens Thursday, Sept. 22, with screenings of “Hercules Unchained” (1958) at 3:30 and 7 p.m. in the Ellis White Lecture Hall in the Hammond Campus Center, 160 Pearl St. In this visually stunning adventure directed by Pietro Francisci, muscleman Steve Reeves stars as Hercules, who attempts to prevent a war over the city of Thebes and, along the way, becomes enchanted by the mysterious Queen of Lydia, Omphale. The film will be introduced by professor of communications media George Bohrer.
The series continues with “Romulus and Remus” (1961) on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 and 7 p.m., also in the Ellis White Lecture Hall in the Hammond Campus Center. Directed by famed “spaghetti Western” director Sergio Corbucci, “Romulus and Remus” recounts the story of the founding of Rome and the personal struggle between two brothers – one motivated by virtue, the other by power and greed – destined to fight over who will found the new city. Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott play the titular characters. The film will be introduced by Assistant Professor Sarefield.
The series concludes with the Oscar-winning “Spartacus” (1960) on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 3:30 and 7 p.m., also in the Ellis White Lecture Hall. This monumental American historical drama directed by Stanley Kubrick won four Academy Awards. The epic presents the life of the rebellious slave Spartacus and the events of Rome’s last and greatest slave rebellion. This film stars Kirk Douglas as Spartacus and Laurence Olivier as Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus, with Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, Woody Strode, Tony Curtis, and many others. The film will be introduced by professor of English Joseph Moser.
Tickets are $7 for individual titles or $15 for the series. Tickets are $5 for students and will be available at the door.