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Highly recherché...but unavailable in the USA!
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Note: this page contains some links to Region 2 DVDs available from Amazon in France, the UK, and Germany. Region 2 DVDs can’t be played on regular DVD players sold in the USA (which play Region 1 only). You must have a Region 2 player, or a PC DVD player set to Region 2, or an all-region DVD player. (Amazon offers a number of all-region DVD players.)

The Eagle released in the US on February 11, 2011, then took flight on DVD. Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell star in the screen version of Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth, about a young Roman commander in Britain who ventures north of Hadrian’s Wall to recover the eagle standard lost by his father. Steven posted this report at his facebook page:

At the weeknight screening I attended, there was not a single female in the audience. (There are virtually no women in the movie either, just a few seen in crowd shots.) This is a guy movie, about guys, made by guys, for guys! It feels a lot like a Western (the savage Picts look like the Indians in Last of the Mohicans); it’s all about male bonding and manhood rituals (literally in the case of the young village warriors, figuratively in the case of the Roman played by Channing Tatum, who cannot attain “manhood” until he redeems the memory of his father). Of course, it’s based on a book for boys...written by a woman!

Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald directed from a script by The Last King of Scotland collaborator Jeremy Brock. Sutcliff’s book was previously dramatized by the BBC in 1977 (see item below). For more Roman mayhem in ancient Scotland, see 2010’s Centurion. And will Mortis Rex ever make it to the big screen?
The Eagle (2011)

The Eagle (see item above) wasn’t the first filmed version of Rosemary Sutcliff”s novel The Eagle of the Ninth; in 1977 the BBC showed a 6-part mini-series based on the book. Steven hoped the publicity generated by the new film would finally bring the old series to DVD, but as 2011 came to a close, no such luck. Seen here: Anthony Higgins as Aquila leading the Roman troops. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know! See more lost movies at Steven’s Wish List page. Update! The series will be released on Region 2 DVD in the UK on 15 January 2018.

Before Anthony Quinn’s unforgettable performance as Barabbas in 1961 (a movie on Steven’s Top Ten list), there was a 1953 Swedish movie version of the novel by Nobel Prize winner Pär Lagerkvist, with Ulf Palme as the fictional convict spared instead of Christ. The whole thing appears to be streaming at YouTube—but without English subtitles. Has there ever been a DVD, or any English-subtitled version? If you have an info, please let Steven know!

You’ll find a couple of clips online, but where oh where is the complete DVD or streaming version of the 1966 TV production of the Maxwell Anderson play Barefoot in Athens, about the last days of Socrates? Peter Ustinov won an Emmy for playing the Greek philosopher. The cast includes Geraldine Page, Anthony Quayle, Salome Jens, Lloyd Bochner, and a very young Christopher Walken in his film debut. Online clips here and here. If you know of any way to see the complete version, please let Steven know!

Update! The complete Warrior Queen series will come out on Region 2 DVD in the UK in August, 2012. Here’s the original item: Two years after making an indelible impression playing Augustus’s wife Livia in I, Claudius, Siân Phillips played another larger-than-life woman of the ancient word — Boudicca of the Iceni in the British TV series Warrior Queen (1978).

Beginning in the 1960s, Turkish heartthrob Kartal Tibet starred as not one but two comic book heroes with adventures set in late Antiquity. First, Tibet scored as the heroic Karaoglan, whose exploits included a nasty run-in the wicked emperor Manuel and his gladiators in Constantinople in Karaoglan: Bizansli Zorba (The Byzantine Tyrant) (1967). Tibet also played the even more popular Tarkan (1969, photo above), a Hun raised by wolves. A few years ago, Tarkan vs. the Vikings, in which our hero rescues the kidnapped daughter of Attila the Hun, was issued with English subtitles on the DVD Turkish Pop Cinema Double Bill, now a collector’s item; chances are slim of ever seeing more English-language DVDs or broadcasts of these Turkish peplums, but if you ever hear of such a thing, please let Steven know!

The Italian comedy O.K. Nero (In Italian, O.K. Nerone) came out the same year as Quo Vadis (1951), with a tale of two U.S. sailors in Italy who time-travel back to the days of the fiddling emperor. There was definitely an English-language version, as this poster attests. (“Man, dig those crazy gobs!”) If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

Number One on Steven’s Wish List: In 1963, the BBC broadcast Shakespeare’s three Roman plays (“Coriolanus,” “Julius Caesar,” and “Antony and Cleopatra”) as a nine-part series called The Spread of the Eagle, presented in historical order and staged on a lavish budget. Seen here is Barry Jones as Caesar, Paul Eddington as Brutus (to the left of Caesar), Keith Michell as Antony (to the right), and Peter Cushing as Cassius (far right). You can read more about the series at BFI. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

With its sprawling 3-hour tale of forbidden love between a Gallic gladiator and a senator’s daughter, the 1949 epic Fabiola was a landmark of Italian cinema and is considered one of the best ancient world movies ever made — by those lucky enough to see it. The only English-language version appears to be a 90-minute release that’s available on DVD-R. In 2010, A French-language version was released on Region 2 DVD in two parts, Mirage de Rome and Le Sang des Matyrs. If you know of any other DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

In 1954, before emerging as master of the Hollywood melodrama, Douglas Sirk directed the widescreen epic Sign of the Pagan. Jeff Chandler took top billing as the stalwart Roman hero, Marcian, but Jack Palance stole the movie as a villainous Attila the Hun. (In 1954 Palance also appeared as the unforgettable Simon the Magician in The Silver Chalice; and the same years saw another Attila, starring Anthony Quinn and Sophia Loren.) Sign of the Pagan is available on Region 2 DVD from Germany, including English track: Attila, der Hunnenkönig. See other English-language rarities on German DVD here. There’s also a Region 2 French DVD with English track, Le Signe du Paien. If you know of any other DVD release, please let Steven know!

In 1953, before making his mark with low-budget horror films, William Castle directed a low-budget epic, Serpent of the Nile, with Raymond Burr as Marc Antony and Rhonda Fleming as Cleopatra; a very young Julie Newmar, painted gold, danced for their amusement. The movie has been broadcast on Turner Classic Movies, and it’s not half bad. Castle made another costume epic the same year, Slaves of Babylon. If you know of any DVD release of either film, please let Steven know!

In 1989, Marco Ferreri directed Le Banquet for French TV, based on Plato’s Symposium and starring Philippe Léotard as Socrates and Irene Papas as Diotima. An Italian DVD is available as Il Banchetto di Platone). If you know of any English-language DVD or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

In 1971, director Roberto Rossellini (Isabella’s father) dramatized the last days of the Greek philosopher Socrates for Italian TV, with Jean Sylvère in the title role. Read Vincent Canby’s New York Times review here. Import DVDs are available here and here at Amazon. If you know of any English-language DVD or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

In 1991, The Royal Shakespeare Company produced the film The War That Never Ends. Wearing simple costumes, an amazing cast (including Ben Kingsley, Michael Kitchen, and Alec McCowan) recited parts from the history of Thucydides about the war between Athens and Sparta; Steven watched the show on PBS on the eve of the Gulf War and was haunted by it ever after. Thanks to a vistor to these pages from The Netherlands, Steven was finally able to watch the program again in 2010, and it’s as riveting as he remembers. If you know of a broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know! (In 2009, Thuycidides inspired the indie rock release Athens v. Sparta. Steven talks about that project, and The War That Never Ends, at this page.)

The 1940 movie The Boys From Syracuse was based on the Broadway musical, which was inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and its prototype, “The Brothers Menaechmus” by Roman playwright Plautus. The movie features some songs by Rodgers and Hart, including “Sing for Your Supper” (performed by a very young Martha Raye). More info about the movie here. (There was also a Canadian TV version of the play, broadcast in 1986.) If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

The 1931 gender-bender comedy The Warrior’s Husband was based on a Broadway hit starring Katherine Hepburn as Antiope the Amazon; if Hepburn had reprised her role on celluloid, the movie would probably be showing on TCM instead of moldering in obscurity in the vaults of MOMA’s movie archives. Here’s Elissa Landi as Antiope, with David Manners as Theseus. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

In 1946, Turhan Bey played Aesop in the technicolor extravaganza Night in Paradise; as ambassador to King Croesus of Lydia, the fable-spinner falls in love with the king’s intended bride, a Persian princess played by Merle Oberon. Aesop was later depicted in a 1953 episode of Hallmark Hall of Fame, “Aesop and Rhodope,” by 84 Charing Cross Road author Helene Hanff. If you know of a DVD or TV broadcast of either production, please let Steven know! Update: In January 2012, Night in Paradise premiered on Turner Classic Movies.

In 1931, Thorne Smith (most famous for Topper) wrote the novel The Night Life of the Gods, in which the Olympian deities pay a visit to Prohibition-era New York. In 1935 a screen version was released; the tie-in book cover at left used images from the movie, in which Ray “Crash” Corrigan played Apollo. According to a reviewer at imdb: “The film itself is lucky to have survived. Apparently the only known print was held by a collector who turned it over to the UCLA Film Archive in the 1980s, where it remains. A video copy was made before the print was locked away, and all copies now in circulation derive from that 20 year-old dub, which is why the image quality is so poor.” Restoration is overdue! If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

The 1983 BBC miniseries The Cleopatras recounted the multi-generational saga of the Ptolemy dynasty that ruled Egypt from the death of Alexander the Great to the death of the final and most famous Queen Cleopatra. Intended to be a follow-up to the huge international success of I, Claudius, the 8-hour series fizzled with critics and hasn’t resurfaced since...but, thanks to a visitor to this site, Steven has been able to watch the series, and reports: “Definitely a mixed bag, but plenty of catnip here for the Cleo-lover.” Seen here: Robert Hardy as Caesar and Michelle Newell as Cleopatra. More info here. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know! Update! In 2011, someone began uploading all 8 episodes at YouTube, beginning with episode 1.

In 1961, French TV broadcast Les Perses (The Persians), an oratorio based on the ancient Greek tragedy by Aeschylus. With its stylized sets and masks and striking music, director Jean Prat’s production became legendary...and in 2009 finally became available on Region 2 DVD from France. (Read a critique in French here.) Chances of an English-subtitled version are probably nil, but if you ever hear of one, please let Steven know!

The 1935 German musical comedy Amphitryon was based on the plays by Plautus and Molière, in which Jupiter comes to ancient Thebes in search of romance (and Mercury wears roller skates). Under Nazi censorship, Jewish director Reinhold Schünzl still managed to parody German militarism, using SS men as Theban extras. (Schünzl later fled the country.) Steven bought the Region 2 German DVD and was able to follow the story, thanks to the German subtitles and his familiarity with the plot; he found it “a sumptuous visual treat full of charming effects.” If you know of any English-language DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

Between 1967 and 1980, Romania produced three massive epics set in ancient Dacia: Burebista, about the great Dacian king in the time of Julius Caesar; Dacii (The Dacians), about Domitian’s war against the kingdom; and Columna (Trajan’s Column aka The Tyrant), about the fall of King Decebalus and the aftermath of the Roman conquest. Dacii (photos above) is available on Region 2 DVD from Romania (with English subtitles); copies can sometimes be found at eBay. There’s also a German-language Region 2 DVD (Kampf der Titanen gegen Rom). Columna has been issued on Romanian DVD, in Romanian only (try eBay or here). Steven hasn’t found a DVD of Burebista, but the film can be seen its entirety (in Romanian) here. (Dacii and Columna also stream at the same site.) The movies offer impressive spectacle, but remain controversial as propaganda vehicles of the repressive Ceausescu regime and its doctine of protochronism. If you have more information about the availability of any of these films (especially in English), please let Steven know!

The Theban Plays: In 1984, British TV broadcast the entire trilogy by Sophocles with superb casts. (Seen here: Anthony Quayle as Oedipus and Juliet Stevenson as Antigone.) All three productions are streaming in parts at YouTube (click to begin watching Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone), but the quality is abymal. If you know of any other broadcasts or DVD releases of these films, please let Steven know!
On DVD, you can see Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex performed in masks, Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex, Stravinsky & Cocteau’s Oedipus Rex staged by Julie Taymor, and even the Latin American update Oedipus Mayor. But where is Oedipus the King from 1967, with the definitive cast: Christopher Plummer as Oedipus, Lilli Palmer as Jocasta, Richard Johnson as Creon, and Orson Welles as Tiresias? The degraded videotape streaming at YouTube is barely watchable. If you know of any other broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!
The terrific Nelvana animated TV series Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend was first broadcast on Saturday mornings on CBS from 1998 to 2000. Each of the 26 episodes recounts a tale from Greek myth. Steven was delighted to find a four-disk All-Region DVD set from South Korea available from dvdheaven (these DVDs include English soundtrack and play on US Region 1 players). If you know of any other DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!
In 1972 Andrzej Wajda directed Pilatus und andern (Pilate and Others) for West German TV, based on the story-within-a-story about Pilate and Jesus in Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita. Great director, great novel...great movie? If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

A visitor to this site tells Steven, “In Brazil we  had a very popular TV show in the ’70s called Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker’s Farm), based on the kids’ stories written by Monteiro Lobato, and the characters travel back to Ancient Greece and run into Theseus and the Minotaur.” Chances of ever seeing these episodes in English are probably nil, but the 1978 Minotaur episodes of the series are available in Portuguese on Region 4 DVD.
In 1930, Luiz de Barros, a pioneer of erotic cinema in Brazil, made the movie Messalina, based on the novel Orgie Latine by Félicien Champsaur. If you know of a DVD release (or have any other information about this film), please let Steven know!
In 1974 Roger Corman produced the blaxploitation/babesploitation epic The Arena, starring the legendary Pam Grier in one of her seminal roles as a Nubian gladiatrix who leads a Spartacus-like revolt. Used copies of the 1999 DVD release can be found at Amazon. If you know of a new DVD release, lease let Steven know!

Seldom seen outside museum retrospectives: Rome 78 by artist/filmmaker James Nares, an anachronistic, subcultural take on decadent Rome via New York circa 1978, with a cast of “downtown personalities” including Lydia Lunch, Lance Loud, and David McDermott as Caligula. If you know of any screening or DVD release, please let Steven know!

The 1982 Italian comedy Attila flagello di Dio starred Diego Abatantuono as the furry-chested, feather-brained “Scourge of God.” The low-budget sword & sandal spoof has a cult following in Italy, thanks in part to Abatantuono’s hilarious Southern Italian dialect. You can watch a sequence of clips in Italian beginning here at YouTube. If you know of any English-language version, lease let Steven know!

Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian), based on the mystery play by Gabriele d’Annunzio with music by Claude Debussy, was shown on French TV in 1984, starring Michael Biehn in the title role and Nicholas Clay as the Emperor. See a detailed synopsis and screen caps here. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know! (Meanwhile, the 1976 Derek Jarman movie Sebastiane is available on DVD.)

Thaïs, the story of an Alexandrian courtesan and the ascetic holy man determined to convert her, was filmed by Polish director Ryszard Ber in 1984, based on the novel by Nobel laureate Anatole France. See a picture gallery here. If you know of any English-language DVD, please let Steven know!

The 1956 Italian comedy Mio figlio Nerone finds the superstar emperor (Alberto Sordi) at his seaside resort, rehearsing a big new show while fending off nagging stage-mother Agrippina (Gloria Swanson), gorgeous Poppea (Brigitte Bardot), wise Seneca (Vittorio De Sica), and numerous attempts to do him in. English language releases carried various titles, including Nero’s Mistress and Nero’s Big Weekend. A French Region 2 DVD is available. If you know of an English-language DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!
Polish director Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Faraon (Pharaoh), nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1967, is widely regarded as one of the best feature films ever made about ancient Egypt. Read a review here; see a photo gallery here. A French/Polish Region 2 DVD is available. A Region 2 DVD released in 2000 featured an English-dubbed track; second-hand copies can sometimes be found at If you know of any other English-language DVD release, please let Steven know!
Scipione detto anche l’africano (Scipio, Also Known as the African), from 1971, starred Marcello Mastroianni as the savior of his country facing political destruction at the hands of scheming war-monger Cato (Vittorio Gassman). If you know of an English-language DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know! (Meanwhile, the 1935 Italian epic Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal, a patriotic spectacle with rampaging elephants and a cast of thousands, is available on DVD.)

The 1982 French comedy Deux heures moins le quart avant Jésus-Christ (Quarter to Two Before Jesus Christ) told the not-so-epic tale of Marcel Ben-Hur (Coluche), a chariot driver in North Africa. When Caesar (Michel Serrault of La Cage aux Folles) arrives on imperial vacation, the people choose Marcel to lead a revolt. A smokin’ Cleopatra (Mimi Coutelier) is also on hand. A French Region 2 DVD is available. If you know of an English-language DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

The Queen of the Nile went anime in the 1970 Japanese release Kureopatora, directed by Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka. The treatment was adults-only (hence the US release title, Cleopatra: Queen of Sex) with grotesque comedy and dazzling art-world references in the mix. You can see a gallery of images from the movie here. A Region 2 German DVD is available, but according to IMDb, “The subtitled version released in English speaking countries is said to be lost. Please check your attic.” If you know of a US DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

In the 1980s the Italian film industry tried to resurrect the 1960s Sword & Sandal genre by slathering Lou Ferrigno with baby oil and putting him in a loincloth; his Hercules and Sinbad movies are available on DVD, but 1983’s The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (an Ancient World version of The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai) has proved elusive—until now? An outfit called Lost Sci-Fi classics is offering a DVD for sale here; this seems to be a fledging enterprise and Steven is curious about the quality of the product. If you’ve seen this DVD or know of any other release, please let Steven know! The movie also featured original Sword & Sandal stars Brad Harris (with Ferrigno, above) and Dan Vadis (as the villain).

Eight years before the BBC’s legendary I, Claudius, there was The Caesars, a six-part series broadcast in 1968. The story ranges from the reign of Augustus to the ascension of Claudius, with a particularly sharp (and sympathetic) take on Tiberius. It’s available on Region 2 DVD from the UK; terrific writing and acting make up for the regrettable picture quality. if you know of a US DVD release, please let Steven know!
The comic book adventures of Alix, a Gallo-Roman youth of the late Roman Republic, have been popular in France and Belgium since the 1940s. (No US publisher has ever brought them out.) In 1999, 26 episodes of the animated TV series Alix appeared in France. Visit the Alix website here. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast (or any English-language publication of the Alix books), please let Steven know!
The 1994 Italian comedy S.P.Q.R. 2000 e 1/2 anni fa, starring Leslie Neilsen, spun off a popular comedy series on Italian TV. You can see Nielsen address the Roman Senate (in Italian) at YouTube. Both movie and TV series have been available on Italian DVD, and there’s also a German-dubbed DVD (Die Römische Kanone). If you know of any English-language DVD or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!
The animated adventures of Les Fils de Rome (The Sons of Rome), set in the reign of Trajan, debuted on French TV in 2000, featuring heroic Sirius, his sister Liana, the herculean Pharaoh, and blundering Marco (a master of disguise). If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

Update, 6/2011: The UK Region 2 DVD Frankie Howerd at ITV includes his final outing as Lurcio, Further Up Pompeii. Here’s the original item: A randy old guy surrounded by beautiful babes — there’s the formula for a certain type of vintage British comedy, in this case the BBC series Up Pompeii! starring Frankie Howerd, which ended back in 1991. Terrible puns and double-entrendres run rampant as the wily slave Lurcio mocks his masters and mistresses in the family of Ludicrous Sextus. If you know of a US DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

Update 5/2011: Brian De Palma’s Dionysus has now released on DVD! Here’s the original item: One of the most fascinating of the ancient Greek tragedies is The Bacchae by Euripides, the tale of young King Pentheus of Thebes who defies the god Dionysus and suffers a terrible fate. It’s been filmed at least four times, first in 1961 in Sword & Sandal mode as Le Baccanti (The Bacchantes), a French-Italian production which featured choreography by Herbert Ross. In 1970, Brian De Palma directed the X-rated Dionysus, based on the orgiastic stage production “Dionysus in 69” [now on DVD]. In 1993, Ingmar Bergman directed an operatic version, Backanterna, for Swedish TV. In 2002, Brad Mays made a film version, The Bacchae (image above left; you can watch several clips here). If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast of any of these productions, please let Steven know!

FRANCO ROSSI (1919-2000)
Franco Rossi studied Law but ended up as a film director in Rome, making his mark with four remarkable mini-series set in the Ancient World. Having seen Rossi’s L’Odissea (in Italian), his Quo Vadis (in the full-length English version), and A Child Called Jesus (the US release of Rossi’s Un Bambino di nome Gesù), Steven considers him one of the great visionary filmmakers of the Ancient World: “Rossi’s Odyssey is in some ways the only version of the epic every filmed, true to the complex structure and challenging themes of the original, with perfect performances by Fehmiu as Odysseus and Pappas as Penelope; his Quo Vadis presents ancient Rome as we’ve never see it before, a mesmerizing visual and aural landscape, anchored by Brandauer’s riveting performance as Nero; A Child Called Jesus takes us to places I’ve never seen in a movie before, including the Jewish quarter of ancient Alexandria.” Rossi died in Rome in 2000 at the age of 81 without realizing a longtime ambition: to bring The Iliad to the screen.
In 1968, Rossi directed the legendary Euro TV mini-series L’Odissea (The Odyssey) starring Bekim Fehmiu, Irene Pappas, Samson Burke, and Barbara Bach. (Read rave reviews at imdb.) It’s available on Region 2 DVD in German and Italian. If you know of any English-language DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!
In 1971, Rossi directed the mini-series Eneide, broadcast on Italian television and also released in a shorter threatrical version titled Le Avventure di Enea. The movie is based on Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid, about the flight of the warrior Aeneas from Troy, his tragic love affair with Queen Dido of Carthage, and the legendary origins of Rome. If you know of any DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!
In 1985, Rossi directed the mini-series Quo Vadis, based on the famous novel, starring Klaus Maria Brandaeur as Nero, Max Von Sydow as Peter, and Francesco Quinn (son of Anthony) as Marcus Vinicius. Beware the 2-hour version that appeared on VHS in the US. There’s a full-length English-language Region 2 DVD from the UK or from Germany. If you know of a US DVD release or TV broadcast, please let Steven know!

1987 saw the broadcast of Rossi’s Un Bambino di nome Gesù on Italian TV, a fictional account of the childhood years of Jesus in Alexandria and elsewhere. Richly atmospheric and surprisingly suspenseful, the film features another fine performance by Bekim Fehmiu (the star of L’Odissea) as Joseph. Alone of Rossi’s Ancient World mini-series, A Child Called Jesus is available in the US on DVD.


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