Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Scipio L'Africano (aka Scipio Africanus) represented the first foray into filmmaking by Vittorio Mussolini, the war-hero son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. It was originally intended to be an Italian-American co-production, but Hollywood producer Hal Roach pulled out of the project on the advice of his associates. Rumors have it that Vittorio's father, "Il Duce" himself, wrote the screenplay and personally demanded that Italian filmmaker Carmine Gallone return to his homeland to direct the picture. One of the most expensive historical epics in movie history, the film concentrates on Roman consul Scipio's (Annibale Ninchi) Herculean efforts to topple the regime of Carthaginian conqueror Hannibal (Camillo Pilotto). It takes 15 years, but Scipio is finally able to raise a big enough army to defeat Hannibal, first in Africa and finally at the pivotal Battle of Zama. A subplot concerns the political intrigues concocted by the treacherous Numidian Queen Sofonisba (Francesca Braggioti). To bring Scipio L'Africano to fruition, director Gallone was afforded the luxury of a 232-day production schedule. According to official files, 32,848 extras, 1,000 horses and 50 elephants (for Hannibal's journey across the Alps) were used in the film. Even so, this heavily propagandistic paean to the glories of the Roman Empire is often shoddily put together, chock full of such anachronisms as telephone wires stretching over the battlefields. The film was not the enormous flop that many people claim, but its lukewarm box-office showing was enough to convince the Italian film industry to concentrate on musicals and "white telephone" comedies for the duration of the Mussolini regime.
leader, military, tyrant, production [showbiz], troops