BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964)

I have no idea who the John Heston this movie’s poster promises, but I do know that this peplum film was obviously made in the wake of another movie with a very similar title. It’s also the third film in the series of Dieci Gladiatori films that began with Gianfranco Parolini’s 1963 effort The Ten Gladiators and continued with Nick Nostro’s Triumph of the Ten Gladiators.

Nostro would direct this as well, working from a script that he co-wrote with Alfonso Balcázar (A Pistol for Ringo) and Sergio Sollima (The Big Gundown).

The film begins with Rocca (Dan Vadis, who was a member of Mae West’s Muscleman Revue before acting in sword and sandal films) and his nine gladiators performing for the emperor. However, they are followed by the gladiators of Thrace, who are forced to kill one another, leaving only one man standing. The last two are a father and a son, which Spartacus (Giovanni Di Benedetto, using the John Heston name like a little sneak!) stops the madness and lobs a sword at the emperor’s balcony box.

Rocca’s gladiators defend Spartacus against all odds and also wildly shifting narrative tones. At some moments, wacky music plays as the men battle soldiers and at other moments, there is a discussion of dogs shredding people apart. Sometimes wacky, sometimes horrifying, that’s Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators, which totally features its own “I am Spartacus” scene.

Also, Helga Liné shows up as Daliah. You may — you totally should — remember her from Horror ExpressSpecial Mission Lady Chaplin, The Vampires’ Night OrgySo Sweet…So PeverseHorror Rises from the TombNightmare Castle and so many more films.

Who put all this together, throwing the right edit together so that this film made some semblance of narrative sense? Bruno Mattei, in one of his first jobs as an editor. He’d continue in that role for the early part of his career, as well as doing a similar job on nearly all of his own films.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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