Sword and the Cross, The / La spada e la croce (1958)

4.0 out of 5

An alternative title of this minor Biblical epic of Mary Magdalene more accurately reflects the emphasis of this take on the classic New Testament narrative as Lily Munster plays the famous hooker. She sings, sounding more haunted than haunting, plays lute and does a weird proto-frug approximation to Eastern dancing.

Barrabas, a sort of Pacho Villa style bandit and revolutionary, provides the film with the occasional bout of action of the "you'll never take me alive Roman!" variety.

Cliched, yet never preachy, the film is a delightful action drama based on the famous text that leaves out a fair amount of the story, thankfully, in order to keep it tight. Christ pops up and the viewer does not see his face but does get to share in his fortune-cookie-like wisdom that is dispensed occasionally from the wise one in the manner of some coin-operated oracle including a particularly smart way to discourage people to from throwing stones at streetwakers. It would hardly be a spoier to point out that he dies at the end.

Terence Hill appears as Lazarus and the point of never trusting someone called Judas Iscariot gets underscored.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics