In the city of Rhodes, around 280 B.C., there has been a huge statue constructed that towers high into the sky, proclaimed the Colossus for its massive presence, which is to be the subject of an opening ceremony the King Serse (Roberto Camardiel) is to attend. Also attending is visiting Greek war hero Darios (Rory Calhoun), a celebrity to increase the glamorous nature of the occasion, but what he doesn't realise is that he has wandered into a hotbed of corruption and potential revolution, as not long before the ceremony began there was a revolt of Macedonian slaves who rescued their leader Peliocles (Georges Marchal) from the clutches of the Rhodes soldiers. Sure enough, as the King proclaims the Colossus completed, there's an assassination attempt...
Sergio Leone had been directing and writing for the Italian movie industry since the nineteen-forties, but his actual solo credit as the man at the helm of his own work came some time later with this, one of the last gasps of the local sword and sandal genre which actually was a fair success in its day, suggesting the style was not completely spent after all. This enabled Leone to get another job on an uncredited remake of Akira Kurosawa's samurai effort Yojimbo; that was A Fistful of Dollars, and the rest was history as he managed to change cinema in his way, certainly changing Westerns and what was expected of them. But back at his Colossus of Rhodes, many of the fans of the latter movies expressly sought this out.
They wanted to know if any of the magic of his Dollars Trilogy or what came later was apparent in this, yet really this was more of a piece with the historical entertainments he had been serving as assistant director or scriptwriter on, and has therefore been deemed a disappointment for those audiences used to the Spaghetti Westerns. It actually wasn't that bad in what was a very samey fashion for movies, where you're tempted to say if you've seen one you've seen them all, which wasn't exactly true as there was a difference between Spartacus and your average Steve Reeves vehicle. Though the appeal of watching strapping men stripped to the waist and getting up to all sorts of physicality was nevertheless common to them all.
It was certainly apparent here, which has offered a whole swathe of what were considered family entertainment, or at least something to divert the kids at a matinee while mother went shopping, the reputation of overripe camp, lingering a little too long on rippling torsos and playing up the overwhelming masculinity of the era depicted (from the movies' perspective) to the detriment of anything more heterosexual. Ask someone now if they like watching musclemen grappling or, as was the case here, being lavishly tortured while in a state of undress, and you might be working towards a proposition, yet come the eighties there was a curious revival in the form as the action film became popular, and where would they be without that kind of sexual tension?
Therefore if you liked Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone's muy macho tactics, or equally wanted to see those later superhero movies for much the same reasons, you might well see the attraction of watching Rory Calhoun strut his stuff among the perspiring manflesh. Calhoun was reportedly hired the day before filming commenced, and it shows as he was more comfortable in Stetsons and spurs, a Western star mostly on television, so his rangy appearance and laidback demeanour stuck out like a sore thumb among the Europeans who were more able to convey at least a semblance of Ancient times in their interpretations, though even that has become rather absurd as films have moved on. Considering Leone had his star tied up in the head of the Colossus for the climax does look as if he had little faith in him, leaving the revolution to the others, though Lea Massari, fresh off L'Avventura, made an impression as the duplicitous Diala. With an eye for the grand image but not much else, this was largely for completists. Music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.