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Film Review: “Revak The Rebel”

PalanceAh, Jack Palance. He of the rugged build, deeply inset Slavic eyes, prognathous lantern jaw, silky baritone, and the sinister smile with more than a hint of madness. Usually cast as a heavy, especially after his breakthrough role as the casually murderous gunslinger in Shane, Palance actually displayed considerable range as a character actor during the course of his career with a long European stint where he worked in spaghetti westerns and art house flicks with a few turns in the sword and sandal or peplum genre, popular drive in and movie theatre fare in the US and Europe in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, riding the crest of the wave created by Steve Reeves as Hercules.

Revak is one of the few films where Palance plays a good guy romantic lead, although even here his usual brooding intensity steals pretty much every scene he’s in. In this film, Palance plays the son of a Celtic island king, taken hostage with his sister by the evil Carthaginian Kainus to compel his father’s submission. Once his sister chooses death by drowning over dishonor after being compelled to do a strip tease/dance routine that’s really silly and tacky even by peplum standards, Revak swears eternal war against the evil Carthaginians. Things look bad for Revak once he arrives in Carthage at the mercy of a cruel taskmaster, until a red hot babe in a palanquin intervenes on his behalf who turns out to be Princess Cherata, sister of Kainus. Like a good peplum movie, things move swiftly from there with Revak drawn into palace intrigue as he conspires with others (mostly enslaved noble Romans) to escape from Carthaginian slavery.

For fans of the genre, one with an admittedly limited but nonetheless enduring appeal, this film has all the goodies, the things we’ve come to expect from a peplum: excellent sets done by a fine Italian hand, albeit with an inappropriate Hellenistic look, dancing girls, a muscular protagonist in a leather shorty outfit, and best of all, truly groanworthy dialogue with much “By the Gods!”, “Silence, dogs,” and so forth and so on. Palance grimly soldiers through his role with steely determination and does a more than creditable jobĀ  in the main action sequence where he brawls with the much bigger and burlier Deliasis (Pietro Ceccarelli) for the entertainment of Princess Cherata’s guests. He’s also OK in the brief romance scenes, greatly aided by Milly Vitale as Princess Cherata, a gorgeous example of one of the genre’s chief attractions for me, namely, stunningly beautiful Italian women scantily clad in “antique” outfits. The actors’ palm has to go to Guy Rolfe, though, who suavely performs a scenery chewing hambone turn as the evil Kainus, playing his part with aplomb, even when he has to wear a ridiculous looking fish head helmet. It’s a cliche that the villain is usually the most entertaining character, one that Rolfe proves in spades!

I recommend this film to peplum fans, Jack Palance enthusiasts, and anyone interested in some old fashioned, harmless, fast moving fun.

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