Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 16th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1971
Director: Bitto Albertini
Writer: Bitto Albertini
Cast: Brad Harris, Massimo Serato, Raf Baldassarre, Michel Lemoine, Maria Pia Conte, Adler Gray, Margaret Rose Keil, Paolo Rosani, Alberto Farnese, Attilio Dottesio, Carla Mancini, Filippo Perego
DVD released: May 19th, 2009
Approximate running time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Letterboxed Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Mya Communication
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Return of the Gladiator was written and directed by Bitto Albertini, whose other notable films as a director includes Three Supermen in the Jungle, The Three Fantastic Supermen in the Orient, Black Emanuelle, Black Emanuelle 2 and Yellow Emanuelle. Bitto Albertini was no stranger to the Peplum genre. Before he became a director he was a cinematographer on several Peplums’ like Goliath and the Barbarians, Colossus and the Amazon Queen and Gladiators 7. Return of the Gladiator’s Italian language title is “Il ritorno del gladiatore più forte del mondo” which roughly translate into “The Return of the Strongest Gladiator in the World”. Another title that the film is also known by is, Three Giants of the Roman Empire.
The premise like most Peplum’s is simple and not that hard to follow. Rome is in trouble the German barbarians are joining forces with traitors within the Roman government to end the Roman dynasty once and for all. Enter a muscular warrior named Marcus who quickly proves that he is not all brawn and has some intellect as he suggests that he should recruit two other men to help me uncover the insidious plot a brewing. His two cohorts are a pretty boy named Claudius and a master thief named The Fox. Their quest for justice is a bumpy road that eventually leads them to the traitors.
The plot doesn’t really bring much new to the Peplum genre as it follows the heroic journey formula exploited time and again in this genre. There is plenty of bone crunching action including a well laid ambush sequence with Marcus and his undermanned group of fighters. The film’s scenic landscapes are fully exploited by Director Bitto Albertini who takes full advantage of the 2.35:1 scope frame. During a scene where Marcus and his two sidekicks are eating chickens, the director employees a speed up technique that is prominent in many Spaghetti Western comedies from this era.
Cast in the films lead role of Marcus is Brad Harris, who other notable films include Goliath Against the Giants, Samson, 3 Supermen, The Mad Butcher, The Freakmaker and The Beast in Heat. From a physical standpoint he certainly fills the role nicely. Performance and charisma wise he is not as engaging as Steve Reeves the most known actor to emerge out of the Peplum genre. The film’s standout performance comes from Michel Lemoine (Seven Women for Satan) in the role of the psychotic Sevio. Other notable cast members include Maria Pia Conte (The Orgy of the Dead, Spasmo) and Raf Baldassarre in the role of The Fox who provides the bulk of the comedy that occurs in the film. Ultimately for a Peplum that was made long after the genres glory days, Return of the Gladiator still manages to capture the essence of what makes this genre so enjoyable.
Return of the Gladiator is presented in a letterboxed widescreen that frames the image in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback. The source materials used for this transfer are in very good shape with natural looking flesh tones and details look crisp throughout. The colors fare well with a few instances where they look a tad muted. Print damage and edge enhancement are kept to a minimum.
This release comes with two audio options English and Italian. Both audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. There are no English subtitles for the Italian audio mix. Outside some minor instances of background noise both audio mixes are more than adequate presentations.
This release comes with no extra content. Overall Mya Communication gives Return of the Gladiator a well rounded audio / video presentation.