Orazi e curiazi (Duel of the Champions) (1961)



Director:  Ferdinando Baldi

Starring:   Alan Ladd (Horatio), Franca Bettoja (Marcia), Franco Fabrizi (Curazio), Robert Keith (Tullio Hostilio), Luciano Marin (Eli),  Andrea Aureli (King of Alba),  Mino Doro (Caius),  Piero Palermini (Nevio),  Umberto Raho (Grand Priest ), Alfredo Varelli (Sabinus ), Evi Marandi (Slave ), Alana Ladd (Scilla). 

Rome is in a long war with the Albans.  Both sides are exhausted, so they set up a duel to decide the winner.  The Romans chose the three Orazi brothers.  The Albans chose the three Curiazi brothers.

Roman leader (Alan Ladd) versus Alba.  


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Before Rome was Rome, the Roman army fought against its neighbors:  the Etruscans, the Sabines and the Albans. "In the reign of Tullius Hostilius, King of Rome, war with the city of Alba, birthplace of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, had lasted for many years.  This war with its great demands had cost the indomitable rivals, Alba and Rome, many sacrifices.  Neither city succeeded in winning a decisive battle and by the time of our story, the Romans and the Albans, faced with famine and internal strife, have rallied their remaining legions in a last desperate effort for victory."

The Romans on horseback charge the Albans who wait for them.  Archers kill some of the Romans.  After the battle, it is clear again that neither side won a decisive victory.  The King of Alba paces back and forth.  He says that the fate of Alba is linked to the Roman reinforcements from Etruria (a region of Central Italy, in an area that covered part of what now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna and Umbria).   If they can't stop them in the mountains, then all is lost.  The reinforcements have to be stopped no matter what the cost. 

Horatio Orazi is the leader of the Etrurian army, known as the 4th Roman Legion.  He has his troops step up the pace.

A messenger arrives to tell the Alban commander that they must stop the reinforcements coming from Etruria.  Horatio is suspicious of a possible ambush of his troops.  Alban archers open up on Horatio's force with a flurry of arrows that crash into the enemy army.  Small bales of ignited dry grass are rolled down onto the Roman positions.  Soon Roman and Etrurian troops are fighting in hand-to-hand combat.  The Etrurians know they must get out of the trap they stepped into. 

Horatio has an idea.  He runs up the mountain side.  Horatio's second-in-command thinks that Horatio is trying to escape, but Horation is trying to find a way to turn the enemy lines. Only two men are left of the 4th Roman Legion.  Some of Horatio's brothers demand to know from the wounded soldier named Sabinus what happened to their brother.  They are furious when Sabinus tells them that Horatio ran from the battlefield.  Tullius Hostilius says that they will withdraw the Roman army or risk losing all they fought so hard and so long for. 

The brothers of Horatio go to look for his body on the battlefield, but do not find it.  Meanwhile, Horatio is with his captors.  The commander of the prisoners tells them they will be thrown into the wolf pit to fight the wolves.  Any survivors will be sold into slavery.   

The Albans celebrate their good fortune in war.  They take Horatio and force him to climb  into the wolf pit.  A woman known as Scilla, who feels sorry for Horatio, tries to throw him a knife but a soldier stops her.  Then she pretends to knock a stone loose.  It falls into the pit and Horatio is able to grab it and start killing the wolves.  It starts raining and the crowd rushes inside.  The guards help Horatio out of the wolf pit.  The young woman tips over a statue that makes a noise that breaks the concentration of the guards.  Horatio knocks one man out and the other he throws into the wolf pit.  Scilla calls for the Roman to come over to her where she is hiding. Horatio does so and finds himself in a room with a couple of woman wrestlers.

Scilla walks Horatio over to the gate.  Then she takes him to where the horses are kept.  Horatio climbs on a horse and takes off. 

The King of Rome says that Horatio is now dead.  He chooses Marcus to be the king-to-be.  He will marry the King's daughter Marcia.  Marcia agrees to marry him, but says she will only give Marcus her life and her body (not her love).  Marcus is upset by this.  As they go outside they are met by a father who has lost his 22-year-old son in battle and his baby son too.  He asks the King to stop the wars with Alba.  Marcus wants the guards to throw the man in jail, but Marica defends the man.  The King tells the father that he too has lost sons to make Rome great.  In fact, he has lost four sons. 

Horatio awakens.  He doesn't know where he is.  A pretty woman tells him that he is safe.  Her people are from the mountains, where they are safe from both the Albans and the Romans.  She tells Horatio that he has, with the help of many herbs, been sleeping for 20 days.  Her grandfather arrives and the woman tells Horatio that it was granddad who found him. 

The King of Alba arrives to speak with the King of Rome, who wants to negotiate some kind of truce between the two peoples.  The two sides have been at war for seven years.  The two Kings can reach no agreement, so one of the priests suggests that they let the gods decide who should rule over the combined people. The divine Sibyl reads the will of the gods.  There should be one group of three brothers from each side who will meet in battle.  The people of the brothers that are the victors will be the rulers of the combined people.  Alba has such a group of brothers in the Curiazi family. 

The mountain woman continues to take care of Horatio until he is better.  One of the villagers comes in to tell Horatio to hide himself for Roman soldiers are coming up the hill   Horatio waits in the dark and when two Roman soldiers come in he knocks them out.  Another soldier comes in and Horatio says he is a Roman too.  The other soldier recognizes Horatio and says to him that the Romans had given him up for dead.  He also tells Horatio that the city of Rome will not salute him now.

Marcia tells Marcus not to worry for she will be a good wife to him.  Marcus says he knows that Marcia loved Horatio, but he hopes that one day Marcia will love him as much as he loves her.  He adds that he even loved her while Horatio was alive.  Marcia says she definitely will try to love him. 

The King of Rome talks about the peace that has descended over the two peoples.  Now, finally, there is enough food and drink for everyone.  Just then Horatio comes slowly into view riding a horse.  Marcia goes forward to see him.  Horatio is greeted by his father who hits him with some nasty accusations.  The man back from the supposedly dead is amazed that so many could believe that he ran from the battle.  And it is now that Horatio learns that Marcia is the wife of Marcus.  The King of Rome says that Horatio and his two brothers will fight the brothers from Alba. 

Horatio says he came here for three reasons:  1)  to answer the charge that he betrayed his men; 2) to offer his sword to serve Rome  --  but this offer he now withdraws;  and 3) to wish Marcia a long life and all the joys of a marriage bed.  He returns to his home.  Horatio's sister Horatia and Marcia come to speak with him to tell him not to abandon his family.  Marcia asks to speak to Horatio alone.  She tells him that she thought he was dead.  He tells her that he has got to go away.  This upsets her and she asks that if he is going to leave, to do it quickly.  He leaves. 

Some maidens play in the water.  Three Alban men in  a boat capture one of the women, Horatia. Corazio tells his brother Nevio to go tell the Romans that the woman will be returned tomorrow.  He then tells the woman that she was trespassing on their lake and he is now teaching the Romans a lesson.  The woman says that lesson will be as nothing compared to the lesson her brothers will give him.  He says he will tame her.  He kisses her.  She seems to like it and they kiss again. 

Horatio's younger brother finds Horatio up in the mountains where he was saved from his pursuers.  The brother hugs Horatio.  Horatio suspects that his brother is looking for that missing third brother to fight the Alban brothers.  His brother says that this isn't about their single family, but about the future of Rome and the Roman people.  Horatio says his brother is wasting his time coming here to speak with him about this.  But there is one thing that interests Horatio.  Their sister Horatia has been abducted. 

The youngest son returns to tell the King of Rome that Horatio will not fight for them.  Horatio's father, however, thinks he will fight for them.  He says he has been re-thinking the matter and perhaps he has been too hasty in his denunciation of his eldest son.   

Curazio sends Horatia back to her territory.  He says he has to do it because the King of Alba has ordered it.  Horatia, however, says she loves the man.  She asks him to go away with her to somewhere they can be together.  Curazio says he has to fight for Alba.  The battle will start at dawn. 

Horatio teaches the woman who nursed him back to health how to write her numbers.  Marcia comes to see Horatio.  She tells him that she is unhappy and so is Marcus.  Horatio says that makes the three of them some very unhappy creatures.  She has come to him with a message:  Rome needs him.  Rome needs him and his two brothers.  Horatio says he is happy here with his Tiberians --  why should he go back?  Marcia tells him that he is so hard that it's true what they say:  Horatio is dead.  This angers Horatio and he grabs Marcia and kisses her passionately.  He breaks off the embrace and says:  "Now go back and tell them that Horatio is dead."   Marcia leaves. 

The ceremony announcing the upcoming battle between the two sets of brothers begins.  While the ceremony goes on, someone shouts that Horatio is coming.  The crowd welcomes Horatio, who tells his father he needs one hour to rest up before the battle.  His father is glad to see his son. 

On the battlefield, Marcus asks Horatio to forgive him and Horatio does so.  The two sets of brothers on horseback attack each other.  Horatio's younger brother is killed.  Marcus is now killed.  Horatio leaves the battlefield.  Rome refuses to concede until the Albans have brought back the body of the third Roman brother to them.  Marcia tells her father-in-law that Horatio will triumph over the three Alban brothers.  This upsets Horatia who doesn't want her lover killed.

The three brothers think they have Horatio surrounded in the forest.  They split up and go in for the kill.  Hiding in a tree, Horatio jumps down on Nevio, knocking him off his horse.  He is able to kill Nevio.  The other two brothers hear the sound of the dying man, but they don't know who was the victor:  Nevio or Horatio?  The two brothers build a camp fire.  A horse comes over to them.  Over its back is the body of Nevio.  Horatio sees the two brothers leaving.  He sets a fire and that brings the brothers back.  Horatio jumps out brandishing a fire torch which scares the horse of another of the brothers.  Horatio kills the brother using the man's own sword. 

Curazio goes back to tell the Romans that victory is his, because Horatio has turned and fled.  Just as he says this, Horatio comes riding his horse down the hill to fight Curazio.  The two men fight until Horatio kills Curazio with a sword to the man's chest.  Horatia cries over the dead body of Curazio.   It's hard for Horatio to believe that his sister fell in love with the man who kidnapped her.  Horatia is so upset that she kills herself with a sword.  Marcia cries out in disbelief.   Horatio speaks with his father and kisses his now deceased sister. 

The King of Rome now talks with the King of Alba.  They now establish a new period of peace between the two peoples.  Horatio now starts to leave.  Marcia arrives on horseback and rides alongside him as they ride off.


Not a lot of history here, but enough.  Gives us an opportunity to think about early Rome before the great Julius Caesar.  There is some truth to the story, even the part about the two sets of brother fighting it out.  But the rest of it is pretty much fiction.  The movie is a B movie, but it was, if not good, acceptable.  The two love stories are okay.  Alan Ladd looks very old as Horatio the hero. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


753-715 BC  --  Romulus & Remus, founders of Rome.     

715-673 BC   --  Numa Pompilius.  After the death of Numa Pompilius the peace he established began to break down.

673-642 BC  --  Tullius Hostilius, the third of the legendary Kings of Rome who succeeded Numa Pompilius.  He oversaw the first extension of Roman territory beyond Rome itself. 

The Romans and the Albans began to raid each other's fields and steal each other's animals.  The Albans and Romans prepared to attack.  Tullius defeats Alba Longa in war (by three Roman champions defeating three Alban champions)   As vassals of Rome, the Albans were now expected to fight with Rome against their enemies.  When Alba did not help, Tullius had the dictator of Alba, Metius Suffetius, torn in two (using chariots running in opposite directions). Tullius then had Alba Longa destroyed.  The Albans were sent to live on the Caelian Hill.

It is not known for sure who destroyed Alba Longa.  It may not have been Tullius. It is not known for sure who destroyed Alba Longa.  Tullius himself was killed by a bolt of lightning. 

642-617  --  Ancus Marcius.

617-579  --  Tarquinius Priscus.

579-535  --  Servius Tullius.

c. 540 BC the Battle of Alalia. Carthage expands its sphere of influence at the expense of the Greeks. (Etruria allies itself with Carthage against the Greeks.) Etruria begins its decline after it had lost its southern provinces.

534-510  --  Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.

509  --  the king was pushed out and the Roman Republic founded. 

c. 500  --  Etruria was assimilated by Rome.

480  --  Carthage iss defeated by a coalition of Magna Graecia cities led by Syracuse.

474  --  Syracuse's tyrant Hiero defeats the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae.  



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