Douglas Sirk fled Nazi Germany in the late 30s, changing his name from Hans Detlef Sierck to one more acceptable in Hollywood. He went on to become one of the industry’s most famous and influential directors in the 40s and 50s, but Sign of the Pagan was a rare foray into historical drama.
Jack Palance plays Atilla the Hun, sweeping all before him as he advances on Rome. Jeff Chandler co-stars as the Roman general Marcian, charged with halting his assault by Princess Pulcheria (Ludmilla Tcherina, a French ballet dancer whose voice was dubbed by an anonymous American actress). But as the heathens advance to the very gates of the Imperial City, it is not the force of arms that turns them back but a much higher power…
Palance, already an established name thanks to Panic in the Streets and Shane, played his role to the hilt, somewhat overshadowing the rest of the cast, but the film is notable for its battle sequences. Before CGI could populate the shores of Troy with thousands, Sirk used hundreds of extras to great effect and film fans will enjoy seeing Attila’s nemesis, his slave wife Iloico (Allison Hayes), before she found fame in the cult B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
USA / 1954
Director: Douglas Sirk
Writers: Oscar Brodney, Barre Lyndon
Cast: Jack Palance, Jeff Chandler, Ludmilla Tcherina, Rita Gam, Jeff Morrow