Many centuries ago Lot (Stewart Granger) was the leader of his Hebrew tribe, a group of nomads who would seek somewhere to settle for a time to raise crops and then move on. They had arrived, after a long and arduous journey, in this apparently fertile land and though there had been grumblings of mutiny in the ranks of his fellows, they were silenced when it seemed as though Lot had done the right thing in bringing them to water and food. As they walked ahead, they happened to meet Ildith (Pier Angeli), who identified herself as a leader of slaves - but from where?
Why, from that picturesque region known as Sodom and Gomorrah, which happened to go down in history as a den of vice and infamy. A couple of them, in fact, although in this case it was largely the better known, notorious Sodom the filmmakers concentrated upon thanks to the presence of the imperious Anouk Aimée as their Queen, ruling over her subjects with her equally cruel brother Astaroth (Stanley Baker). When Lot meets this bunch, he's understandably given pause to reflect on whether these are the sort he and his tribe should be mixing with, but not for the reason you might think.
In spite of the Biblical sin of Sodom, there was no mention at all of actual sodomy here, so none of the inhabitants there were keen to "know" Lot's associates as it had been written in the scripture. Very little of the account in the source survived the transition to big screen epic, mainly because there's really not too much to it: basically two angels show up to hang out with Lot, a group of Sodomites arrive demanding to get acquainted with them in the Biblical sense, then Lot has a blinding lightning strike from God to get his family and escape - the most famous bit of the tale being what happened to his wife when she couldn't resist looking back at the destruction and damnation.
From that sliver that shouldn't have taken up more than twenty minutes at most, a two and a half hour movie was wrought, and although it now has the reputation of a camp classic most of it was hard to sit through without checking the time to see how far you were into it, and how far there was to go. The beginning is promising enough, as was so often with Biblical epics they followed the Cecil B. DeMille route of staging all the depravity they wished thanks to the supposed holiness of the material, so it looks like we're in for loads of debauchery. Yet get that early torture scene over with and the rest was too much of the politics of the Hebrews setting out their claim and the Sodomites, whose use of slaves denote them as hopelessly venal, battling them for land rights.
If there's one thing this was known for, apart from the unintentionally comic possibilities of the dialogue, it was that Sergio Leone took on the second unit direction, one of many jobs he got in that field before he hit the big time later in this decade with his Westerns; here he handled the fighting sequences, injecting a measure of excitement into the trudge through what may or may not have occured millennia ago. This was one of those international co-productions as many of this period's Bible stories tended to be, filmed in a very bleak-looking Morocco, but every so often Aimée would arch an eyebrow, Angeli would get feisty, or someone would be put to death to underline how corrupting the influence of immoral people is, and you could see an uncharacteristically anonymous Robert Aldrich might have brought out more than he did. At least he left off the end of the tale in the text, where Lot's daughters, having no men to pair off with, got their father drunk and shagged him so they could have his babies. Not even the Sodomites would have done that. Music by Miklos Rozsa.