Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

Slave Queen of Babylon

Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, Slave Queen of Babylon, stars Yvonne Furneaux as Semiramis, queen of ancient Assyria. Reputed to be the world’s most beautiful woman, all manner of myths and legends have been ascribed to her over the ages. Some credited her with designing the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, although the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus noted they were built long after Semiramis reigned. It’s also been said she invented the chastity belt, while Protestant minister Alexander Hislop assailed her for fomenting deviltry by devising polytheism and “goddess worship.”

Her rare combination of beauty and power certainly made her a recurring figure in literature — ranging from works by John Milton to William Faulkner — and cinema, including this 1963 sword-and-sandal epic made in Italy but featuring an international cast. Born in France, but working primarily in Great Britain, Furneaux was always a stunning actress but this is perhaps her most alluring role. In some ways, she reprises her 1959 appearance in Hammer Films’ remake of The Mummy, where she played Princess Ananka, a High Priestess from ancient Egypt resurrected from her mausoleum. But Furneaux has more room to maneuver as Semiramis, plotting to seize the Assyrian throne by outfoxing all of the men around her, as well as defending the kingdom against a host of external enemies.

She’s devious, unscrupulous, manipulative, and also, ravishing enough to get away with it. Her one weakness: She falls in love with the rival King Kir of the Dardanians, played by German-born actor John Ericson, seen on scores of American TV shows including Rawhide, General Hospital, CHiPs and Fantasy Island. This costume adventure has largely been forgotten, which is a shame — because the action is fierce, the drama often sweeping and the costumes and sets quite opulent. Hope you enjoy, and do return again next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

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