Cast & Crew
Darius, a Spartan gladiator, returns to his home with six other gladiators after winning his freedom in a fight in a Roman arena. He discovers that his father has been murdered by Hiarba, an ambitious tyrant. Hiarba has designs on Aglaia, Darius' betrothed, and has convinced her that Darius murdered her father. The seven gladiators become popular heroes, helping people resist the tyranny of Hiarba; and when the ruler sends his forces into a climactic battle with the gladiators, the seven defeat the tyrant's troops. Hiarba flees to a fortress surrounded by an army camp. He takes Aglaia along as a hostage, and she learns of Darius' innocence in her father's death. Four of the gladiators stampede a herd of bulls, demolishing the army camp. Meanwhile, Darius and the two other gladiators enter the fortress, rescue Aglaia, and kill Hiarba, thus liberating Sparta from tyranny.
Alberto De Martino
Rafael García Serrano
In Gladiators 7 (1962), now available on DVD from VCI Entertainment, American actor Richard Harrison stars as Darius, a gladiator who wins his freedom in an arena duel to the death against Rome's best. When he returns home to Sparta, he encounters another treacherous situation; the current ruler of Sparta has assassinated his father and stolen his girlfriend Aglaia (Loredana Nusciak). Worse, Darius finds himself framed for the murder of Aglaia's father. Luckily, he escapes his captors and wastes no time assembling a small team of trusted friends - an oddball collection of middle-aged he-men and a few scrawny youths - to help him overthrow the tyrant of Sparta. All of them come to the table with their own unique skill set; tug-o-war champion, archer, equestrian, acrobat, etc. We're not too sure about Flaccus though, besides the fact that he can consume vast amounts of barrel wine without lapsing into a complete coma.
Released toward the end of the sword-and-sandal craze of the early sixties, Gladiators 7 (1962) might not be an essential film in its particular genre but it certainly qualifies as a guilty pleasure for anyone who ever harbored a fondness for these cheesy costume epics imported from Europe. This one is an Italian-Spanish co-production and provides Harrison with one of his better roles (the actor is often credited as the one who encouraged director Sergio Leone to cast his friend Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars, 1964). There's no shortage of action scenes (sword battles, a cattle stampede, a bare hands bull fight) and several of them are uniquely staged such as the opening gladiatorial where Harrison is forced to run a gauntlet and battle warriors who fall to their deaths on a field of spikes.
The VCI DVD edition of Gladiators 7 is certainly better looking than any previous VHS edition of the film but it's not first rate. Part of the problem stems from the uneven quality of the source material used which tends to look very dark in some sequences; this is a particular problem with night scenes. Still, the film is remarkably free of print damage, speckling, and scratches that have marred other European films from this period. The widescreen format of 2.35:1 looks compromised in some scenes with the actors looking slightly squeezed but this presentation is still preferable to a pan and scan approach. As for disk extras, there is only a collection of trailers for other recent VCI titles like Stranger's Gundown (1969, to be reviewed soon) and The Whip and the Body (1963).
For more information about Gladiators 7, visit VCI Entertainment. To order Gladiators 7, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeff Stafford
Filmed in Rome and Madrid in Totalscope. Released in Italy as I sette gladiatori in 1962; running time: 106 min. Spanish title: Los siete espartanos.