Tuesday, April 21, 2009


A co-production between Italy (Imprecine) and Spain (Hispamer Film), THE REVENGE OF THE CRUSADER (1964) is a rarely seen movie, scripted by Riccardo Freda, that adds one more small piece to the bigger picture of the European adventure-romance film. Imprecine also co-produced with Hispamer Riccardo Freda's GIULIETTA E ROMEO (JULIET AND ROMEO), for which Freda wrote the screenplay and directed. Jose Luis Monter is credited as director of REVENGE, but the possibility exists that some, if not all, of the work is Freda's, as credit forgeries for quota purposes in foreign co-productions were not uncommon during this time. And, as sometimes happened in his career, Freda would walk off the set before finishing a film, handing completion off to someone else. The Italian credits make particular note of Freda by announcing before the title credit that the film is "realizzata" by him. If THE REVENGE OF THE CRUSADER is Freda's work, it will not advance his reputation much, however.

The original title, GENOVEFFA DI BRABANTE, clues us in that this was a star vehicle for Spain's Maria Jose Alfonso, a historical drama/romance set during the times of the Crusades, but not an epic filled with battles or any cast of thousands dazzle. What most will not know here in the States is that the film is actually based on a popular European legend. A Wikipedia entry informs us about Genovefa of Brabant:

"Her story is a typical example of the widespread tale of the chaste wife falsely accused and repudiated, generally on the word of a rejected suitor. Genovefa of Brabant was said to be the wife of the palatine Siegfried of Treves, and was falsely accused by the majordomo Golo. Sentenced to death she was spared by the executioner, and lived for six years with her son in a cave in the Ardennes nourished by a roe. Siegfried, who had meanwhile found out Golo's treachery, was chasing the roe when he discovered her hiding-place, and reinstated her in her former honour.... The Genevieve tale first obtained wide popularity in L'Innocence reconnue, ou vie de Sainte Genevieve de Brabant (pr. 1638) by the Jesuit Rene de Cerisiers (1603-1662), and was a frequent subject for dramatic representation in Germany." Italy already visited the subject in a Primo Zeglio directed film made in 1947.

The film does have laughable replacement of actors with obvious stunt doubles with little attempt to hide that the doubles are not the original actors. (This must have been especially noticeable on the big screen.) In fact, in the beginning of the film, it's almost impossible to connect the characters to the actors, as doubles hold much of the screen time. A later sequence, involving Genoveffa and a deer (that's noticeably stuffed) and then a wolf attack (with an obvious male double substituting for Maria Jose Alfonso) raise the laugh meter where laughter shouldn't even be present.

While it's nice seeing Alperto Lupo of ATOMIC AGE VAMPIRE on the screen in a heroic role, the captivating presence here is Stephen Forsyth, known to euro-cultists for his role as John Harrington in Mario Bava's HATCHET FOR A HONEYMOON. Forsyth plays up his villainous role with gusto, continually exhibiting the brewing insanity in his piercing eyes and tweaking what may have been a homosexual veneer to his character. His performance is not as wild and over-the-top as what John Drew Barrymore would do in similar historical tales, but it is authentic and mesmerizing in its own dimensions, and sure to delight those who may have little interest in seeing this film. And his character has use for the axe here, just as his Harrington character would in the Bava film.

Despite the faults of this admittedly minor film, I have to admit to being moved by a couple of scenes near the end. Stephen Forsyth's performance is a vital element in keeping the film percolating, as leads Lupo and Maria Jose Alfonso merely perform their expectant duties. Carlo Rustichelli's score is appreciated for its workman-like job, and the talented composer shines with a melody employing a beautiful female vocal that is, unfortunately, little played in the film. The directing is fairly standard, but there is one murder sequence, coming late in the film, that is brilliantly realized, with its silent corridor and sinister steps perspective, and which reminded me of some of Freda's best work. Was he responsible?

The Mya presentation is in Italian audio only, with removable English subtitles that are occasionally too literal and oddly phrased. Picture quality is good. The framing at 1.85:1 is slightly tight at times for what probably was a 1.66:1 European exhibition, but generally this framing issue is not a problem and unnoticeable. My copy had some instances of brief motion jerks, indicating some PAL to NTSC conversion issue, but another reviewer of this DVD didn't mention this, so perhaps the problem is just my disc.

It's always good to have such a film, based on a European legend unfamiliar to Americans, available for the curious, the connoisseur and the collector.

The Mya DVD is available from Amazon.com.


  1. I think MYA has a death wish. They are trending toward more films with subtitles and this will kill their company. NoShame was going this route just before it died and Casa Negra, though canonized by reviewers went under rather quickly because of foreign language only releases. The irony is that I will buy their subtitled product, though I hate subtitles, because I have a deep interest in Italian films. Most consumers would not do so. Many Eurocult fans will not do so either.

  2. Actually, Edward, I find that a lot of euro-cult fans on the internet complain when the mother country audio track is not included, with English subtitles. I myself tend to view whichever option I'm more comfortable with, based on the quality of the dubbing or the subtitles. Sometimes the English dubbing can be very poor and sometimes the text in the subtitles is just overflowing, so if you read it, you miss viewing the drama or action.

    I believe Mya has a lot of films forthcoming that will have English audio, but where none is available the company will obviously have to provide subtitles or not release that particular film. And, considering how many rare items are in store for us, that would be a shame.

  3. I do know that many Eurocult fans complain about wanting the foreign language track, but, NoShame and Casa Negra are glaring examples of what happens when foreign language and subtitles is all that is being offered. I want MYA to succeed, and have purchased all of their product so far. Unfortunately, I expect them to go under within a year. I believe that a company can release perhaps 20% of its titles in a foreign language and survive, but when companies hit the 50% and above range, they are essentially signing their own death warrants.

  4. Companies like CasaNegra failed to a large extent because they spent a lot of money to acquire certain niche titles (and crafted expensive editions, besides)--titles that have a guaranteed fan base, for sure, but a relatively small one that didn't justify such expenditures. I think that what Mya is trying to do is cut costs as much as possible, so that the company can have a fighting chance in an admittedly tough economic market these days.

  5. To be honest, I think it's mostly american "fans" out there who can't survive without an english language track. Subtitles and the original language is of course the ONLY way to go.

  6. This Is Good for you, is a new (2007) cult film-documentary from Italy:


    More infos here:

  7. Hi, Sinepathic Films. I saw this documentary at a convention in New York last year. Fascinating.

  8. Thanks! But we hope have the US premiere next august in Sand Diego. Maybe you are Michele D.A.?
    (We looking for italian and US label for print in on dvd....)

  9. No, sorry, I'm not Michele and have zero connections with a DVD company here in the United States. Isn't Mort Todd trying to get something to happen in the US?

  10. Ok, sorry....
    Mort working about but is not easy find labels!!!

  11. The motion jerks are present on my DVD too,,,