Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

The Fall of the Roman Empire

DVD Savant has an extensive review of the Miriam Collection special edition of the Samuel Bronston production, from the days when American dollars plus a European army gave you an epic.

I have an earlier no-frills DVD of the title, but this new release gives it the restored-to-glory treatment.

It’s a film that planted two key sequences in my mind when I was a child, and which have held a permanent place there ever since; a fearsome chariot race along precipitious country roads (staged by the great Yakima Canutt and advancing the story not one jot, but wotthehell), and a final combat between mad emperor and disgraced general inside a wall of shields.

The latter isn’t quite up there with the Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis showdown at the end of The Vikings (actually atop the tower of Brittany’s Fort La Latte), but it’s close.

My trick with stuff like this is to stick it in my Amazon basket and leave it there. Every time I visit, Amazon flags up any price changes for items in the basket so if they cut the price to a bargain, I’ll know.

Which is how I got Jack the Giant Killer for £1.26. Still overpriced. Not for the film, which as a sub-Harryhausen rip at least deserves credit for stealing from the best, but for its piss-poor worse-than-TV full-frame transfer.


4 responses to “The Fall of the Roman Empire”

  1. My mother-in-law bought me the region 2 DVD of the Bob Hope ‘Cat and the Canary’ a few years back and the picture was like they’d ripped it from an old VHS – I couldn’t watch it. Yet I got ‘The Ghost Breakers’ on region 1 and the quality was excellent, and that seems to happen all the time – the US transfers seem to be very good for the most part (and correct ratio) while in the UK some two bob company sticks out a crappy analogue conversion and calls it digitally remastered!

  2. Sometimes there’s a Public Domain issue – there are at least four versions of CHARADE floating around ranging from excellent (deleted Criterion Collection disc) to unwatchable (pound-shop crap from what looks like a VHS master of a worn 16mm print). I have a version from Sanctuary Digital Entertainment that’s acceptable, though not wonderful.

  3. The Public Domain thing can be a shame because DVD companies will not spend any money restoring features when the market has been flooded by cheapo copies. Some titles we deal with – Buster Keaton or Lon Chaney titles – suffer this way. As well as ‘Charade’ you mention, ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ also has about half a dozen versions floating about due to (apparently) someone forgetting the copyright on the film.

  4. That’s a good tip for Amazon, sir. And strike me down with a Gundan axe if I haven’t failed to link you up from my own blog. That outrageous wrong will now be righted.