MARCO THE MAGNIFICENT was one of two star-studded medieval epics made-in-Europe that landed on us in 1965. The other was Genghis Khan, goofy as hell but colorful and entertaining. This one, by contrast, is just as daft, but it’s cursed by being boring as well. It made a paltry $300,000 in the States, 147th that year. Beyond idly looking at the actors, there’s little to hold interest.
Horst Buchholz, of a different ‘Magnificent‘, plays Marco Polo (not any more accurate than the Gary Cooper misfire in 1938), who has a series of adventures (with awful narration) that eventually put him in the court of the great Kublai Khan (Anthony Quinn, looking like Ming the Merciless). Lousy action scenes (orchestrated by the ordinarily adept Cliff Lyons), much gabbing. Elsa Martinelli strides about in dominatrix garb as ‘The Woman with the Whip’, but nothing hot beyond the idea pans out. Expensive filming was done in France, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Afghanistan, Nepal and Italy, but the unfocused direction, clumsy editing and terrible script mitigate enjoyment. The score, by Georges Garvarentz gives it as much luster as it can. For some ahistorical reason, the marketing boys even made sure to have a ultra-sappy, lounge-ready song prepared, “Somewhere”, sung by Jerry Vale. Because when you think Marco Polo, China, and the 13th-century, who else would come to mind?
Caught up in the balderdash: Omar Sharif (aka Genghis Khan), Orson Welles (“just give me check and a costume”), Akim Tamiroff (a pro as ever), Robert Hossein, Gregoire Aslan, Massimo Girotti, Lynne Sue Moon.
Denys de La Patellière directed and co-wrote. Producer Raoul Lévy started the project with Alain Delon and Dorothy Dandridge in 1962, then aborted after expending $700,000. Resurrected and recast, with co-direction from Noel Howard, and script collaboration (make that confusion) from Lévy, Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Jacques Remy. Another $2,500,000 down the drain for costumes, horses and giving the end result a half-dozen alternate titles. 100 minutes.