In a film so uniformly awful it’s difficult to know where to begin a critical post mortem. Could it be the cheesy matte backgrounds? The blaring soundtrack of trumpets, screeching violins, and angelic alleluias? The strained sense of religious ecstasy that has characters staring dreamy-eyed into the heavens as if they just took a hit off a big ol’ Catholic bong? For me it was the abysmal performances which delivered the final nail (pun intended). As Marcellus Gallio, Richard Burton displays the emotional range of a wooden marionette while Victor Mature as the born again Demetrius reads his lines as if he were reciting stats from the back of a bubblegum card. Then there’s Michael Rennie as the apostle Peter revising his role from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" sans spacesuit; Jean Simmons fussing and mewling as Marcellus’ girlfriend Diana; and Jay Robinson stealing every scene as Caligula, a cartoon villain skulking across the faux classical sets hissing and spitting like a wet cat. One expects a certain amount of dramatic hyperbole from these faith-based “epics” but Koster uses up his quota within the first fifteen minutes leaving the remaining two hours looking like a gaudy Christian infomercial (oh that final scene!) while the metaphor of the eponymous robe itself—changing lives as it changes hands—is pretty much lost amid the overblown pageantry. And this Cinemascope gobbler actually won two Oscars and was nominated for three more including “Best Picture” and “Best Actor” for Burton?!?!
First film shot in CinemaScope. As Martin Scorsese explains in the opening, movie theater screens were shorter and boxier prior to the widescreen of CinemaScope. THE ROBE blew audiences away because now they could see much more in a single shot. The colors and sets are terrific too. Albert Maltz, one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten, was a screenwriter. The movie made Richard Burton a superstar and inaugurated the sword-&-sandal Technicolor era in Hollywood. But what struck me was the realization that the Bible used to be a primary currency in U.S. culture, something that writers, producers and directors could use to communicate messages about totalitarianism and tolerance. It no longer is today.
It’s Roman times. They crucify this guy whom people say was more than mortal. Enter Richard Burton as a shallow, debauched rich kid who is at odds with the future emperor Caligula. Also enter adorable Jean Simmons and Victor Mature with a wonderful performance as the slave Demetrius. Burton loses his sanity to regain his soul. He and Simmons walk out of life holding hands smiling while Emperor Caligula screams behind them. My eyes fill with tears whether it’s Easter, July 4th, whatever. This is a very well done movie.
This is a wonderful Easter film! The story is engaging and meaningful. The actors do a splendid job, and the script is very well written. If never seen before, this is a must watch during the Easter celebration.
This is a 1953 American Biblical epic that tells the story of a Roman military tribune who commands the unit that crucifies Jesus.
Rosalind Ivan plays as Empress Julia the Elder.
Although the story takes a careful attention to Roman history, the emperor Tiberius' wife Julia, who had been banished from Rome by her father Augustus years before Tiberius acceded to the imperial throne, had been already dead at the time of the episode.
In any case, it is an interesting drama albeit based on the novel of the same name.
VV17 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 99
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