KAMPF UM ROM is a rather sad spectacle in some ways, being the penultimate completed film(s) — it’s a two-parter like DIE NIBELUNGEN — of Robert Siodmak. It’s produced by Artur Brauner, who had invited Fritz Lang back to Germany to remake THE INDIAN TOMB and resurrect the shade of Mabuse in THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR MABUSE, before embarking on a series of enjoyably cheesy Mabuse remakes and sequels without Lang, and making a lurid remake of DIE NIBELUNGEN with director Harald Reinl. Semi-retired and in uncertain health, the great Siodmak was somehow induced to lend his name and talents to a giant Euro-pudding epic about the fall of Rome, filled to bursting with difficult multinational stars: Orson Welles, Laurence Harvey, uh, Michael Dunn…
And Honor Blackman. I take some indecent glee in being the first human to post nude photographs of Pussy Galore on the internet. But I hasten to add that from all I know of HB, she’s not going to be ashamed — she’s going to think, “Damn, I look pretty good!” Some actor friends of mine have worked with Miss Blackman fairly recently, and reported that she’s still got it (and that’s IT, in the Clara Bow sense).
What this movie really needs is Maria Montez, but Honor does the honours as best she can. I can’t judge the film too clearly on the basis of a pan-and-scan copy in German without subtitles (and yet the trailer is in widescreen — damn you, UFA Home Video!) but it’s fun to see how Welles’s “ironic pauses” still work when dubbed into another tongue by another actor, and the sets and costume design are fabulously absurd. I might try and write an overview of the different crowns Welles wore in his career as a “king player” — the thorny square he dons in MACBETH is a ludicrous high-point, but the giant’s arm-band squeezed around his skull in our topmost image is also to be cherished.
Shooting appears to have been a painful slog for the ailing director, and when an interviewer visiting the set asked him that standard journalistic question, “What made you accept this project?” the Great Man replied, “That’s a question I ask myself every morning.”