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Category: Attila Reviews
Article Date: January 10, 2001 | Publication: United Press International | Author: VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter
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Run for cover!

Attila the Hun is coming in a four-hour mini-series via cable's USA Network in two two-hour episodes Jan. 30 and 31.

Historically, Attila rates right up there with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and other nut cases who would rule the world.

But Attila, Scourge of the Gods, is the hero -- not the villain -- of this richly-filmed story of ideology and conquest by a squalid mob of Eastern Europeans who would bring down the Roman Empire.

One would hope Hitler and Stalin would not receive similar distinction a millennium from now but it cannot be denied that history's scoundrels are remembered more indulgently than its saints.

Where do we read of Genghis's brother Sam or Attila's twin Charlie, much less see them ennobled in a TV series?

Where would Bill Clinton's name be found in this pantheon of the planet's historical leaders?

Arafat is still around, right?

All the same, this is not the first time Attila's life has been glorified as entertainment.

There was a 1919 silent movie made by Spain's Febo Mari, who wrote, directed and starred in the black-and-white flick.

Jack Palance played Attila in "Sign of the Pagan" in 1954, leading hordes of Huns against Christian forces. Attila was a loser in this one, falling before Marcian (Jeff Chandler) who reversed the Hun's dreams of conquest, just as Eisenhower put the kibosh to Hitler's invincible blitzkriegs.

But this USA Network vision of Attila is one of heroic idealism, a charismatic leader of barbaric, latter-day knuckle-draggers bent on imposing their civilization (if it can be called such) on the rest of Europe.

Good Luck, Attila baby.

The production values and cinematography of "Attila" are spectacular. Super special effect digitizing has transformed, say, a thousand extras into tens of thousands of maniacal Hun horsemen.

There are scene of slaughter on a grand scale as the marauding Huns cutlass their way through uncounted Romans, Christians and other opponents like a red-hot sword through chicken fat.

And the scenery will not be something viewers have seen before, certainly a relief from Hollywood's back lots or Spain's familiar plains.

"Attila" was filmed entirely in the bleak landscapes of Lithuania, explained in a half-hour TV special titled "Attila: The Making of an Epic Mini-Series," which premieres Jan. 23. Cast and crew also reveal their adventures and opinions on the show.

Attila is played by a relative newcomer named Gerard Butler. Powers Boothe is seen as Flavius Aetius, Attila's Roman friend and mentor.

The love interest is provided by Simmone Jade MacKinnon who plays the dual roles of N'Kara, Attila's true passion, and Ilidico, N'Kara's doppelganger with dark motivations.

If MacKinnon looks familiar, perhaps viewers will recognize her from her role in "Baywatch Hawaii" and "Baywatch Down Under." Yummy.

Butler could well become a movie star on the order of Russell Crowe, a handsome rascal with muscles to spare.

An interesting character is a dwarf named Galen played by Pauline Lynch , a soothsayer with qualities not unlike those of Yoda in the "Star Wars" epics. Galen convinces Attila he is destined to unite and lead the Huns in world domination. He is the man to pick up the long-lost Sword of the War Gods, which fell to earth long, long ago.

Attila bows to her wisdom, after which all hell breaks loose among the infidels, which the Huns clearly are.

Like most tyrants, imbued with their own messianic visions of glory, Attila adopts a typical maniac's credo: Submit to my absolute rule and live, or resist and be destroyed.

Sound like Adolph Schickelgruber and Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili?

With names like those no wonder Adolph and Joe became monsters.

Attila rallies Goths, Visigoths and Ostrogoths to his ranks -- or kills them -- but he runs into trouble with the Gauls, precursors of the French. Who doesn't.

History shows the great warrior Attila died in bed, not necessarily wearing his boots, on his wedding night. This wife's name is not recorded, but she must have been quite a woman.

The mini-series does not say Attila died (in 453) of amorous over-exertion rather than of battlefield wounds. Not to suggest the more delicate exit was preferable for a heathen of Attila's prominence.

Attila fell short of conquering all Europe, thus leaving the way open for such other messianic lunatics as Napoleon Bonaparte and the aforementioned Hitler and Stalin

As televison/cable mini-series go, "Attila" may be the best of the lot, under the direction of Dick Lowry, script by Robert Cochran and the production know-how of Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks.

Viewers would be hard pressed to find better television so far in 2001.

Copyright 2001 U.P.I.

 


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