Cabiria is an Italian historical epic that ran a full 14 reels (well over three hours) at a time when most American films were still short subjects. The plot hinges on the abduction of wealthy and virginal Cabiria (Lidia Quaranta) by pirates during the Roman/Carthaginian War of ancient times. Highlights (many of which were filmed on tinted stock) include the burning of the Roman fleet, an effect accomplished with miniatures and mirrors, and Hannibal's crossing of the Alps -- with real Alps, and real elephants. Cabiria allegedly inspired the Babylonian segment of D.W. Griffith's 1916 Intolerance. At least four versions of this film exist, each prepared by Giovanni Pastrone. The two most prominent are a 1913 silent cut that runs a full 181 minutes, and a 1931 sound cut that runs 137 minutes, which underwent advanced restoration in 2007. Both versions were screened at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival.
by Hal Erickson synopsis