Hannibal (1959)
By: Paul Ryan on October 12, 2010  | 
Big Sky Video | All Regions, NTSC | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 99 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Victor Mature, Rita Gam, Gabriele Ferzetti, Milly Vitale
Screenplay: Mortimer Braus
Country: Italy
External Links
IMDB Hannibal (Aka Annibale)Purchase YouTube
It's 218BC, and Roman aggression has prompted Carthaginian general Hannibal (Victor Mature) to lead his army of 40,000 troops through the frozen Alps, accompanied by a horde of elephants. The Roman senate argues incessantly over how to handle the approach, with Senator Fabius Massimus (Gabriele Ferzetti) convinced that Hannibal poses a grave threat to the Empire. As Hannibal's army bears down on Rome, the general seizes a pair of hostages – Quinitilius (Mario Girotti, subsequently better known as Terrence Hill) and Sylvia (Rita Gam), Fabius' son and niece, respectively. Naturally, an instant, lustful attraction forms between Hannibal and Sylvia, triggering violent jealousy from Quintilius (dude, she's your cousin) and leaving her open to charges of treason. Hannibal's judgement is called into question as the affair intensifies, and the arrival of his wife and child only further complicates things…

Equal parts cheesy spectacle and cornball soap opera, Hannibal is an odd chapter in the filmography of cult B-movie director Edgar G. Ulmer (Detour, The Black Cat). Largely banished to the poverty-row sidelines by this point in his career, Ulmer gets to work with better production values than usual, not to mention some marquee-value casting in the form of fifties sword-and-sandal mainstay Victor Mature. Impressive location footage – the snowbound single-file trek which opens the film is eye popping - is intercut with considerably less-impressive soundstage inserts, with visible shadows cast over the "sky". It's surprisingly violent for the era, with a few chopped limbs, elephant stompings, a spear-down-the-throat and a number of cliff falls. However, the special effects used for these moments are uniformly hokey, with the floppy-dummy-chucked-off-a-mountainside deaths particularly resembling something out of Monty Python.

Narratively, the film drags frequently, with the romantic subplots growing more and more tedious as the film progresses, despite some strong sexual chemistry between Mature and Gam. The political machinations of the Romans are also dealt with half-heartedly, leaving the lively battle scenes to serve as the main point of interest. It almost feels like the film ran out of script at the end, as the movie abruptly finishes with a quick montage and some silly voice-over, in lieu of an actual conclusion. As for the cast, it's tough to gauge how good or bad most of them are as the vast majority are dubbed, Mature and Gam aside. Still, even without their own voices, Ferzetti (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and Girotti/Hill manage to make an impression (Hill's later career sidekick, Bud Spencer can also be spotted in the proceedings). Already an old hand at this sort of film (The Robe, Samson and Delilah), Mature brings old-Hollywood charisma to the table and clearly has fun with all the lust and brawling. Rita Gam (later of King of Kings, Klute and much seventies television), is stunningly beautiful, and at the very least, looks convincingly angst-ridden throughout the film.

Hannibal exists in two different edits, one for U.S. release and the other Italian. The version on this DVD is the American one, credited to Ulmer (the Italian release is credited to Carlo L. Bragaglia, who reportedly collaborated on the direction) and is about five minutes longer than its European counterpart.
Bit of a mixed bag, this one. It's in the original 2.35:1 Super Cinescope ratio and 16:9-enhanced, with a surprising minimum of film artefacts. However the presence of very occasional tape glitches suggests an analogue master has been used, and the NTSC picture is very soft and low on fine detail.
The 2.0 audio is acceptable, though the dubbing of the Italian cast is easy to detect, which is no doubt a fault in the original soundtrack.
Extra Features
Hannibal's elephant hordes were only able to scare up a single trailer here. The Region 1 VCI release has the added value of a late-sixtes audio interview of Ulmer by Peter Bogdanovich, making it the version of choice for Ulmer aficionados.
The Verdict
Engagingly corny and yet deeply unsatisfying, Hannibal has hokey action and square-jawed acting to spare, but strains to hold your interest for 100 minutes. Fans of the eclectic oeuvre of Edgar G. Ulmer will no doubt want to give it a look.
Movie Score
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