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Messalina (1960)

Messalina Venere imperatrice (original title)
Scheming Messalina marries Roman Emperor Claudius but goes too far with a gladiator.


Vittorio Cottafavi


Ennio De Concini (screenplay), Ennio De Concini (story) | 6 more credits »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Belinda Lee ... Messalina / Valeria
Spyros Fokas ... Lucio Massimo (as Spiros Focás)
Carlo Giustini ... Lusio Geta (as Carlo Justini)
Giancarlo Sbragia ... Aulo Celso (as Gian Carlo Sbragia)
Giulio Donnini Giulio Donnini ... Narciso
Arturo Dominici ... Caio Silio
Evelyn Stewart ... Silvia (as Arianna Galli)
Marcello Giorda Marcello Giorda ... Claudio
Mino Doro Mino Doro ... Suplicio
Annie Gorassini ... Courtisan Lover of Aulo Ceso
Aroldo Tieri Aroldo Tieri ... Pirgo Pollinice
Giuliano Gemma ... Marcello
Lia Angeleri Lia Angeleri ... Vipidia
Vittorio Congia Vittorio Congia ... Ortotrago
Paola Pitagora ... Tortured Servant of Messalina (as Paola Gargeloni)


After the tyrannical Emperor Caligula was murdered by his Praetorian Guards, Rome needs a new emperor. The Senators and the Praetorian Guards are undecided who the next emperor should be but finally agree that Claudius, the elderly cousin of Caligula should be chosen to rule. Now they had an emperor, they now had to find him a wife. At the same time, Valeria, a cousin of Claudius, was due to become a priestess in the Temple of Vesta. Valeria is no virgin. She a beautiful temptress, who has had numerous lovers and will marry Claudius, even though he is much older. She doesn't want Claudius. She wants power. Now she will be Valeria Messalina, Empress of Rome. The most powerful woman an in the world!!!! Written by bcarruthers-76500

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Release Date:

12 March 1960 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Messalina See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Belinda Lee : Peplum Actress (15 June 1935 - 12 March 1961) The English actress, Belinda Lee, who played Messalina, died on Monday night on the 12th March 1961 in a spectacular 100-mile-an-hour car crash. She was thrown 63 feet into the air when the back tyre blew, and the car skidded 900 feet and flipped over on its top. Three other people in the car, including her latest love, the Italian screen writer Guatiero Jacopetti, 39, suffered serious injuries in the crash near San Bernardino California, on the way to Los Angeles where she had been acting in a film. Her ashes were interred in the Non-Catholic Cemetery, (Cimetro a Cattolico) in Rome, Italy. She had previously attemped suicide in 1958 after her love affair with the Italian Prince Fillipo Orsini ended. See more »


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User Reviews

MESSALINA, IMPERIAL VENUS (Vittorio Cottafavi, 1960) ***
20 April 2011 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

To begin with, years ago I had watched a 1951 film (with Luis Bunuel alumni Maria Felix and Georges Marchal, the latter also a Cottafavi regular) about the same notorious historical figure – for the record, she would be played in the interim by Susan Hayward in DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954). I would love to be able to re-acquaint myself with that earlier version (incidentally, I still recall the protagonist's hysterical come-uppance) also for the sake of comparison with this one. By the way, the film under review makes for an indirect addition to my stalled Josef von Sternberg retrospective, given that it deals with the era of the Roman Emperor Claudius (though he is a rather ineffectual presence here). While I did manage to acquire a much-superior copy to the one I already owned in time for the Epic Easter marathon I have embarked upon all through this month, my viewing of it still did not occur under the most congenial of circumstances – as the English-dubbing left a lot to be desired!

The short-lived Belinda Lee is ideally-cast in the title role: Cecil B. De Mille had described Cleopatra – actually dealt with by Cottafavi in his subsequent effort LEGIONS OF THE NILE, released the same year and which I have just checked out – as "the wickedest woman of all time", but this epithet would serve this famous harlot ruler even better! Ordained to be a Vestal Virgin, she still manages to seduce her way to the throne (albeit ridding herself of any conquest/associate once his purpose is fulfilled) and even causes discord among childhood pals! The male lead, then, is Spiros Focas – why the role was not given to an Italian actor is a mystery, but he acquits himself quite well under the circumstances. The hero falls for Messalina before her ascent to power, which happens while the young officer is off to war; later, he even commits atrocities in her name – before being brought back to his senses as much by the death of a Senator friend as the love of a Christian girl played by a young Evelyn Stewart (still billed under her Italian birthname).

The rest of the cast includes: Giulio Donnini, a minor genre fixture as virtually the only man not to fall under Messalina's spell and, in fact, is the one to deal her the deadly blow; Arturo Dominici, who bafflingly exchanges loyalties along the way and even becomes Emperor prematurely (after an attempt on Claudius' life is thwarted but, ingeniously, he still sends news to Rome of its success!); and a pre-stardom Giuliano Gemma in a brief role early on as a would-be assassin, subsequently lover/victim, of Messalina's – his head being disdainfully presented on a plate to her befuddled enemies (with this in mind and in view of the vibrant colors on display here, one regrets the fact that Cottafavi steered clear of the horror genre throughout his career)!

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