14 December 2013

Attila (1918)

An early version of the Peplum, the Italian sword and sandal epic, was the silent Ambrosio production Attila (1918) by Febo Mari. The director himself starred as the ruthless Attila the Hun.

Attila (1918)
Italian postcard for Attila (1918). Translation caption: 'The torture of a girl by orders of Attila'.

The Scourge of God

On IMDb, there are two lemmas for Attila (1918) and Attila, il flagello di Dio/Attila, the Scourge of God (1918), but both refer to the same film. Flagellum Dei (Latin for Scourge of God) was the byname of the barbarian conqueror.

Italian silent film star Febo Mari not only starred in and directed the Peplum for Società Anonima Ambrosio, but he also wrote the script.

Producer Arturo Ambrosio ordered impressive sets, which were designed by Pietro Canonica, Ettore Ridoni and Carlo Stratta.

Among Febo Mari's co-stars were the diva Ileana Leonidoff as Ildico, Nietta Mordeglia as Creca and  Maria Roasio as Onoria.

Roasio made her film debut here as Onoria, the Roman woman who is given to Attila because he spared the destruction of Rome. But she kills him in their wedding night.

The film came out in Italy in February 1918, during the First World War. Pier da Castello in the Italian magazine La vita cinematografica drew a comparison between Attila the Hun and Emperor Wilhelm II, who was considered as the culprit of the First World War and its massive slaughter.

Da Castello indicated that Mari’s film appealed to the call of the government to make patriotic films. These must show audiences why the blood-shedding was necessary. He forgave Mari’s ‘playing’ with history.

Febo Mari
Febo Mari. Italian postcard by La Rotofotografica, no. 1. Photo: Ambrosio-Film.

Attila (1918)
Italian postcard for the Ambrosio film Attila (1918). Translation caption: "The Huns advance while killing and burning all over the Venetian plains".

Attila the Hun

Who was the historic Attila? He was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. Attila was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea.

During his reign he was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. He crossed the Danube twice and plundered the Balkans, but was unable to take Constantinople.

He also attempted to conquer Roman Gaul (modern France), crossing the Rhine in 451 and marching as far as Aurelianum (Orléans) before being defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains.

Subsequently he invaded Italy, devastating the northern provinces, but was unable to take Rome. He planned for further campaigns against the Romans but died in 453.

In legend he appears under the name Etzel in the Nibelungenlied and under the name Atli in Icelandic sagas.

Like Pier da Castello, the British magazine Bioscope showed the same permissiveness in their 1918 review of Attila, justifying Febo Mari’s spectacle but also its ideological warning against ‘barbarians’ then and now.

Bioscope also praised the beauty of the two leading actresses, newcomer Roasio and Ileana Leonidoff  as the sensual Bulgarian dancer Ildico – who according to Bioscope had been the real assassin of Attila.

Attila (1918)
Italian postcard for the Ambrosio film Attila (1918). Translation caption: "Saint Genevieve announces that Attila is retreating".

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia and IMDb.


Beth Niquette said...

I always enjoy reading your posts so much. The research you do is just so impressive--and loving history the way I do, I especially enjoy what you write. These postcards are wonderful! I learn SO much when I visit your blog! Have a lovely weekend, dear Paul!

Bunched Undies said...

Great pictures! Thanks for posting. I'm always amazed at film's rich history.