Movie Monday: Hannibal (1959)

I hope you are like this guy:



Not that kind of marching, obviously, but there is a lot of fucking marching in this movie. Which is a bit of a shame, considering its completely over-the-top poster:

Hannibal movie poster


Would you be surprised to learn that the savage orgy of destruction this poster promises does not appear in the film?

OK, so, Victor Mature is Hannibal, and he is invading Italy in 218 BC. Target: Rome!



Check it out, guys, Rome! Oh, look, it’s the Colosseum! That’s pretty cool how it travelled back in time to be there 300 years before it was built!

We get like a minute of the Senate fretting about the invasion, and then it’s Hannibal and his men crossing the Alps. And, I am not kidding, this scene goes on for like ten minutes. Just ten minutes of guys and elephants struggling through the mountains.

Now I am sort of torn about this, because on the one hand obviously the crossing of the Alps was a big deal and took a long time — and, to add to that, I really like that the army on the march has loads of supply wagons and herds of livestock and all the stuff an ancient army would really have that you so seldom see in films. On the other hand, this movie is only an hour and forty minutes long, so literally 10% of the running time is just guys marching through the mountains while officers shout “keep going!”



This guy here takes like a second-long warm up before shouting some encouragement.

Anyway, we do have a little dialogue here, and we get to meet Hannibal. Hannibal is smug:



Hannibal is greasy:



Hannibal meets some Gauls:



The Gauls are never seen again.

Hannibal meets a Roman girl and takes her captive but then falls in love with her. In a weird coincidence, it’s Rita Gam from Sign of the Pagan.

Hannibal fights some confusing, unconvincing battles with the Romans in which they clash their tin swords against each other. Hannibal loses an eye, but not in battle, just to an eye infection. This was a really serious problem in the ancient world, and if you don’t believe me, look at any Roman army medical record. It’s nothing but eye inflammations from hell to breakfast.

The Senate waffles around a bit, and Hannibal wins another vague and confusing battle. He romances Rita Gam a bit more. There is dissension among the Carthaginian officers, and one of them tries to have Rita Gam killed, but fails. He then fights Hannibal, using a … thingummy …



It’s like a shield with a big old spiky spear coming out of it … I have no idea.

Anyway, Hannibal is victorious, and he celebrates by having like five or six half-naked guys punch each other, which the Carthaginian crowd seem to think is super-duper exciting. Way out of proportion to its actual excitingness, considering their camp is full of elephants and stuff.



Anyway, in Hannibal’s hour of victory, dissension in the ranks comes back to bite him in the ass; promised reinforcements from Carthage don’t arrive, but his wife and kid do, exposing him for the greasy philanderer he is. One of Hannibal’s brothers gets killed in a scene that’s played like we’re supposed to know who he was. Rita Gam runs off back to Rome and kills herself. The end. Hannibal’s last lines are just him saying “march!” over and over again, which is sadly appropriate.

The movie is more-or-less historical in its outline, plus or minus a shoehorned-in love story and a bunch of simplifications for brevity. It’s meant to be a spectacle, I think, with lots of big battles and scenery and elephants, and it certainly has elephants, I’ll give it that. But for a giant historical spectacle, it’s also just really boring, with a lot of guys in minidresses clanging tin swords against each other.

Partly it suffers from the historical movie problem of trying to fit real events into a cinematic narrative when the actual story of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy is really kind of anticlimactic; all the good stuff is in the beginning and middle, and the end just kind of fizzles out.

Oh well.

Movie Monday: Hannibal (1959)

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