Cast & Crew
Maximus, governor of a Roman colony in northern Spain in 96 A.D., is building roads and bridges to solidify the Roman holdings against the aggressive Celts, who are led by Malendi and his son, Luna. When the Celts start an avalanche to destroy a bridge built by Lacer, an architect-slave, they are repulsed, and Luna is captured. An emissary from the Roman emperor tells Maximus that the emperor is dying and that Maximus can become the new emperor if he has enough gold. Maximus, intending to obtain the gold in Celt-controlled Valley of the Sil, frees Luna and makes a truce with Malendi. Malendi allows a small force of Romans, supervised by Lacer and accompanied by a small force of Celts, to enter the valley to mine the gold on the condition that Maximus keep his troops away. But Maximus plans to kill Lacer after he obtains the gold because Penelope, Maximus' favorite, is in love with Lacer. She follows Lacer to warn him; Maximus breaks the truce and sends troops into the valley. The Celts attack and Lacer opens the sluice gates of the dam he had engineered to allow the mining. The Celts are drowned in the rising water while Lacer and Maximus battle atop the sluice gate. Maximus is killed, and Lacer and Penelope are given their freedom and depart for a new life in Gaul.
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Gold for the Caesars
Certainly, Gold for the Caesars won't win any prizes for historical accuracy but fans of the genre will enjoy the film's campy take on the ancient past which is highlighted by slave revolts, swordfights, drunken orgies and the unlikely presence of Jeffrey Hunter in a toga. It all builds to a spectacular finish; the Celts mount an offensive and destroy the dam, creating a disastrous flash flood. However you're more likely to be amazed by the hilariously anachronistic dialogue (most of the European cast is dubbed though the English speaking actors speak in their own voices) in scenes like the first sexual encounter between Lacer and Penelope: "I've thought of at least six different ways of speaking to you but each of them ended with me getting slapped so go ahead, let's get it over with." (She slaps him hard, they kiss passionately then repel each other). Jeffrey Hunter, who was much more at home on the range in American Westerns like The Searchers (1956) and The True Story of Jesse James (1957), wasn't the only actor from the U.S. that tried his hand at sword and scandal epics; Alan Ladd, Dale Robertson, Gordon Scott and Broderick Crawford all ventured to Italy at some point in their careers to make movies like Duel of Champions (1961) and The Colossus of Rhodes (1961).
The credits for Gold for the Caesars acknowledge both Andre De Toth and Italian screenwriter Sabatino Ciuffini (he also penned The Tartars and The Giant of Metropolis, both 1961) as co-directors but Ciuffini's name was only listed in order to qualify for government subsidies. The film was one of several that De Toth made in Italy during the early sixties and included Morgan the Pirate and The Mongols, both 1961. Recalling his work on Gold for the Caesars with Jeffrey Hunter and Ron Randell (he plays the Roman soldier Rufus), De Toth said, " I loved Italy, I loved them and the dolce vita. I did what I could, I was up front, I didn't hoodwink them or myself. Those films served them and were good for me as an experiment." Unfortunately, De Toth broke his neck in an accident after Gold for the Caesars and didn't direct again until 1968 when he made Play Dirty, a pitch black anti-war drama starring Michael Caine.
Producer: Joseph Fryd
Director: Sabatino Ciuffini, Andre De Toth
Screenplay: Sabatino Ciuffini, Arnold Perl, based on the novel by Florence A. Seward
Art Direction: Ottavio Scotti
Cinematography: Raffaele Masciocchi
Editing: Franco Fraticelli
Music: Franco Mannino
Cast: Jeffrey Hunter (Lacer), Mylene Demongeot (Penelope), Ron Randell (Rufus), Massimo Girotti (Maximus), Giulio Bosetti (Scipio).
by Jeff Stafford
Gold for the Caesars
Released as Oro per i Cesari in Italy in 1963. Released in France as Or pour les Césars and L'or des Césars in 1964; running time: 95 min.