“Of the many screen interpretations of Messalina, this is probably the most satisfying due to the casting of Belinda Lee, …[whose] pagan beauty seems to exude wantonness, …just the right quality needed for a successful portrayal of Rome’s most dissolute empress.”
– Gary A. Smith, Epic Films
Both opulent and humanly scaled, director Vittorio Cottafavi’s Messalina (1960, aka Messalina Venere imperatrice) is a rare Italian-made historical spectacle headlined by a solo-above-title female star, the ideally cast English-born Belinda Lee, in one of the final roles of her tragically shortened life. Playing the young beauty plucked from country life as the Vestal Valeria to enter an arranged marriage with the newly crowned Roman emperor Claudius, she ably portrays the sexual manipulativeness and raw hunger for power of the murderous empress of legend. Seducing several high-born lovers to gain political influence, Messalina learns that balancing her grasp on the aristocracy and the common folk is too much to handle, even as she longs for the affections of her true love, the ultimately incorruptible tribune Lucius Maximus (Spiros Focas).
LANGUAGES: English and Italian
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition / 2.35:1
AUDIO: English LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono / Italian LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono
1960 / Color