Centurion Marcian (Jeff Chandler) is captured by Attila on his way to Constantinople to warn the Eastern Emperor Theodosius of an attack by the barbarian tribes. Attila, impressed by his enemy’s wiliness, honesty and courage, is powerless to prevent his escape.
The two men meet again at the court of Theodosius (George Dolenz), where they fall under the spell of the Emperor’s scheming sister Pulcheria (Ludmilla Tchérina). At a feast for the barbarian kings, Theodosius and Attila strike a deal that Constantinople will not be sacked – so Attila turns his attentions to Rome.
As Attila prepares his assault, he is wracked by foreboding as he recalls a childhood vision of his death beneath the shadow of a cross. When he learns of a betrayal by his daughter Kubra (Rita Gam), it seems his fate is sealed.
Douglas Sirk’s first foray in CinemaScope is both lavish and savvy, with Palance’s Hun a fine balance of ferocity, vulnerability and doubt.
“Sirk’s direction of the excellent script catches the sweep of the period without letting the characters get lost in spectacle.” Variety