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Both opulent and humanly scaled, director Vittorio Cottafavi's Messalina (1960, aka Messalina Venere Imperatrice) is a rare Italian-made historical spectacle headlined by a solo-above-title female star, the ideally cast English-born Belinda Lee, in one of the final roles of her tragically shortened life. Playing the young beauty plucked from country life as the Vestal Valeria to enter an arranged marriage with the newly crowned Roman emperor Claudius, she ably portrays the sexual manipulativeness and raw hunger for power of the murderous empress of legend. Seducing several high-born lovers to gain political influence, Messalina learns that balancing her grasp on the aristocracy and the common folk is too much to handle, even as she longs for the affections of her true love, the ultimately incorruptible tribune Lucius Maximus (Spiros Focas).