Commodus (Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus; 31 August 161 – 31 December 192), was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father’s death in 180.
Commodus had always laid stress on his unique status as a source of god-like power, liberality and physical prowess. Innumerable statues around the empire were set up portraying him in the guise of Hercules, reinforcing the image of him as a demigod, a physical giant, a protector and a battler against beasts and men.
The emperor also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a gladiator. The Romans found Commodus’ naked gladiatorial combats to be scandalous and disgraceful. In the arena, Commodus always won since his opponents always submitted to the emperor. Thus, these public fights would not end in a death. Privately, it was his custom to slay his practice opponents. For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, straining the Roman economy.
Commodus raised the ire of many military officials in Rome for his Hercules persona in the arena. Often, wounded soldiers and amputees would be placed in the arena for Commodus to slay with a sword. Commodus’ eccentric behaviour would not stop there. Citizens of Rome missing their feet through accident or illness were taken to the arena, where they were tethered together for Commodus to club to death while pretending they were giants. These acts may have contributed to his assassination.
Commodus was also known for fighting exotic animals in the arena, often to the horror of the Roman people. According to Gibbon, Commodus once killed 100 lions in a single day. Later, he decapitated a running ostrich with a specially designed dart and afterwards carried the bleeding head of the dead bird and his sword over to the section where the Senators sat and gesticulated as though they were next. On another occasion, Commodus killed three elephants on the floor of the arena by himself. Finally, Commodus killed a giraffe which was considered to be a strange and helpless beast. In November 192, Commodus held Plebian Games in which he shot hundreds of animals with arrows and javelins every morning, and fought as a gladiator every afternoon, naturally winning all the bouts.
GLADIATOR: Portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ (2000). The story follows Russell Crowe as loyal Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murder of his family and his Emperor. Phoenix portrayed Commodus as a vain, power hungry and socippathic young man who is jealous of and despises Maximus because his father Marcus Aurelius favors the General over him. Marcus Aurelius died of plague at Vindobona and was not murdered by his son Commodus. The character of Maximus is fictional, although in some respects he resembles the historical figures of Narcissus (the character’s name in the first draft of the screenplay and the real killer of Commodus), Spartacus (who led a significant slave revolt), Cincinnatus (a farmer who became dictator, saved Rome from invasion, then resigned his 6-month appointment after fifteen days), and Marcus Nonius Macrinus (a trusted general and friend of Marcus Aurelius). Although Commodus engaged in show combat in the Colosseum, he was strangled by the wrestler Narcissus in his bath, not killed in the arena, and reigned for several years, unlike the brief period shown in the film.
Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 31 August AD 12 – 24 January AD 41), also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 to 41. The young Gaius earned the nickname Caligula (meaning “little soldier’s boot”) from his father’s soldiers while accompanying him during his campaigns in Germania.
Surviving sources present a number of stories about Caligula that illustrate cruelty and insanity; self-absorbed, angry, killed on a whim, and who indulged in too much spending and sex. He is accused of sleeping with other men’s wives and bragging about it, killing for mere amusement, causing starvation, and wanting a statue of himself erected in the Temple of Jerusalem for his worship. Once at some games at which he was presiding, he ordered his guards to throw an entire section of the crowd into the arena during intermission to be eaten by animals because there were no criminals to be prosecuted and he was bored. Caligula has also been accused of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla and Livilla, and prostituted them to other men. He sent troops on illogical military exercises, turned the palace into a brothel, and most famously, planned or promised to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul, and actually appointed him a priest.
Caligula has been played by Ralph Bates in the 1968 ITV television series ‘The Caesars; John Hurt in the 1976 BBC television series ‘I, Claudius’; John McEnery in the 1985 miniseries ‘A.D.’; Szabolcs Hajdu in the 1996 film ‘Caligula’; and John Simm in the 2004 miniseries ‘Imperium Nerone’. A feature-length historical film ‘Caligula’ was completed in 1979, in which Malcolm MacDowall played the lead role. The film alienated audiences with extremely explicit sex and violence and received extremely negative reviews.
A squad of Louisiana National Guardsmen set out for weekend manoeuvres in the bayou. Their objective is simple; all they have to do is navigate through the swamp to a designated meeting point then they can go home. These weekend warriors, led by Staff Sergeant Poole (Peter Coyote) are a disparate group; private Spencer (Keith Carradine) is the cool intellectual of the group, who has organised some prostitutes for the squad at the end of the training; Corporal Hardin (Powers Boothe) has been transferred from Texas; Corporal Lonnie Reece (Fred Ward) the redneck racist; Stuckey (Lewis Smith) the loose cannon; Sergeant Casper (Les Lannom): Corporal ‘Coach’ Bowden (Alan Autry), a gum teacher by trade who is more than a little gung-ho and private Tyrone Cribbs (T.K. Carter), and Simms (Franklyn Seales) are excellent support.
As they bitch and complain while trudging through the swamp they realise that recent rains have cut them off form their objective, desperate to finish the job and go home they steal some local Cajun canoes. In a moment of stupidity, Stuckey fires off some blank rounds at the locals who return live fire, killing Sergeant Poole. The guardsmen make it to the opposite shore where leaderless, their lack of experience is exposed as panic sets in and a thirst for revenge clouds their judgement.
They catch a one-armed local (Brion James), blaming him for Poole’s death, they beat him and accidentally destroy his home before dragging him off through the swamp to bring him to ‘justice’. However, they are pursued by a group of locals (including Sonny Landham) who know the swamp and are far more equipped to deal with the game of cat and mouse which unfolds.
Director Walter Hills feature ‘Southern Comfort’ (1981) stirs up comparisons to John Boorman’s ‘Deliverance’ and to a lesser extent ‘First Blood’. The film is an intense chase-thriller, full of suspense, exhilarating, tense and atmospheric. An excellent script, lean and taut, Hill spends a brief amount of time introducing us to the characters before throwing them and us headlong into the action. Their various character flaws bubble to the surface as their situation worsens and the tension mounts. The cast are all solid delivering a good ensemble performance.
Beautifully shot by Andrew Lazslo, cinematographer for Hill’s ‘The Warriors’ and ‘Streets of Fire’ as well as the similar ‘First Blood’. Using the light and reflections within the swamp to full effect to create a claustrophobic and haunting setting; the Cajun hunters are almost ghost like, we never see them clearly until the end of the movie.
The soundtrack by Hill regular Ry Cooder is eerie and seductive. It draws the viewer into the scenes, expanding the visuals; it’s both unnerving and beautiful. Cooder has supplied scores for other Walter hill movies ‘The Long Riders’, ‘Streets of Fire’, ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Geronimo’ as well as beautiful scores for ‘Alamo Bay’ and ‘Paris, Texas’.
The film was seen at time of release as a Vietnam allegory but that perception has waned slightly over the years. It still looks and feels contemporary and any first time viewer would be hard pressed to say with any certainty when it was made or indeed, when it is set.
Highly recommended; this is another triumph of muscular film making from director Walter Hill. Southern Comfort is as good as the best Vietnam movies of the 80’s and better than the rest.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars
New trailer for The Squad (El Paramo), a new Colombian military horror film. Synopsis:
All contact with a military base high in the desolate wastelands of Colombia has been lost. The authorities – believing the base to have fallen to a terrorist attack – send a nine-man squad to investigate.When they arrive, the men discover a shocking scene of carnage, and only one survivor – a mute woman in chains.
Gradually the isolation, the inability to communicate with the outside worldand the impossibility of escape begin to undermine the sanity of the soldiers.They start to question the identity of their enemy, and the true nature of the strange, silent woman. Is she a terrorist? A victim? Or something moresinister? Something supernatural… Paranoia takes root. Prisoners of fear and the terrible secret they share, their humanity abandoned, the men turn savagely on each other.
A year ago, vampires, werewolves and zombies mysteriously descended upon the streets of California’s San Fernando Valley. Death Valley is the dark comedy that follows the cops that capture the monsters, and the camera crew that captures the cops.
Follow the horrific yet comedic exploits of the newly formed Undead Task Force (UTF), a division of the LAPD created to combat the emergence of monsters in the San Fernando Valley. Death Valley showcases the outrageous and courageous men and women working the toughest beat in the US: Death Valley.
Balancing dark humor with horror, the show is built upon cold-blooded conflict and character driven comedy, following the cops bent on keeping the streets safe from the presence of the paranormal. Documenting each case of zombie, vampire and werewolf encounter is the daring camera crew that is embedded within the task force, quickly revealing that the monster problem goes much deeper than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Full of subtext about living in today’s insane world, Death Valley is at its core a fun, non-stop thrill ride featuring chases, hardcore kills, and extraordinary creatures. The zombies are disgusting, menacing and brutal, the vampires are dangerous, smart and powerful and the werewolves are beastly and insane. From “blood-for-sex” prostitution busts to undead traffic jams, every call from dispatch will take you to a place you’ve never been: right to the bleeding heart of Death Valley.