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191 A.D.: Lucius (Richard Harrison) is nothing more than a centurio in
the Roman army stationed in Gaul, when he learns that he is actually the
abandoned twin brother of Caesar Commodus (Mimmo Palmara), a madman and
tyrant who rules his subject with an iron hand ... but who also relishes
at fighting in the arena as a gladiator.
To end the rule of this tyrant, Lucius returns to Rome - but
unfortunately his brother has already learned about his homecoming,
and has him arrested before long. However, he does not want to leave it to
the Praetorian guards to kill Lucius and has him brought to his residence
- where Lucius succeeds in making a daring escape. Soon enough, Lucius has
secured himself the help of the rebel underground and he manages to entice
the Roman famine-struck populace to go against the palace and overthrow Commodus
- Commodus however is clever, and he lays the blame for everything that's
wrong in the empire on Cleandro (Piero Lulli), lets his subjects have
their way with him, and promises to open the Empirial cornhouses to the
public - and the tide turns to his favour.
It seems Lucius' rebellion is over before it's begun, but then Commodus
announces he will be fighting in the arena again, and this time Lucius
comes prepared and enters the games to fight Commodus, wearing the exact
same armour as the emperor - and since the public doesn't know who to
cheer for, they end up cheering for Lucius, and after he wins and kills Commodus
in the arena, Rome's populace finally rises against Commodus' ruling caste
and all the baddies are quickly overthrown.
Lucius though, who has learned nothing about ruling an empirehands over
the throne to Pertinace (Mirko Ellis), whom he thinks to be a fair ruler.
Moira Orfei plays Lucius' love interest, Giuliano Gemma and Álvaro de
Luna his sidekicks.
By 1964, the Italian sword and sandal film (or peplum, if you may) had
pretty much run its course, and this film proves just that, a rather
boring film of the overthrow the unjust ruler-variety with a plot
consisting mainly of clichés, at best so-so action and a direction that
is not exactly inventive or inspired. The lack of budget (e.g. the
Colliseum sets look nothing short of pathetic) and the lack of impressive
actors don't help one bit either of course.
Oh, and by the way, this film has little to do with actual Roman
history, apart from the fact that there was really a Roman emperor called
Commodus, who ruled the Empire from 180 to 192 - but his actual story
seems to be far more interesting that the story of this film. 1964 also
saw another version of the life and death of Commodus, Anthony Mann's The
Fall of the Roman Empire, from which The Two Gladiators took
quite a few inspirations (like Commodus' death in the arena instead
of him being strangled while bathing - which is what actually happened).
Weirdly enough, Ridley Scott's Oscar-winning 2000 film Gladiator,
which also deals with the reign and end of Commodus, also ultimately has
him killed in the arena.
As for The Two Gladiators, this one is not really worth your
time and money.