After burning Rome, Emperor Nero decides to blame the Christians, and issues the edict that they are all to be caught and sent to the arena. Two old Christians are caught, and about to be hauled off, when Marcus, the highest military official in Rome, comes upon them. When he sees their stepdaughter Mercia, he instantly falls in love with her and frees them. Marcus pursues Mercia, which gets him into trouble with Emperor (for being easy on Christians) and with the Empress, who loves him and is jealous. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
When the boxers are fighting with the spiked gloves, the loser gets punched in the face. He is shown with scars on his face and spits blood onto his chest. In the next shot (from a slightly different angle) the scars are there but the blood on his chest is gone. See more »
My head is splitting... the wine last night, the music... the delicious debauchery!
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Roman epics did not really come into their own until the advent of widescreen. We did have the silent BEN-HUR and QUO VADIS. (The silent KING OF KINGS does not concentrate on Rome although it is of course a backdrop).
The first talkie to deal with Imperial Rome was THE SIGN OF THE CROSS- from a play freely adapted from (and with no credit to) the novel QUO VADIS. The similarities in plot are too great to overlook this point.
Unfortunately, the limitations of the microphone and the care directors took to make sure every word was carefully pronounced and understood by audiences often resulted in static and wordy scenes. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS suffers from this problem. Even the simulated gore and horrors of the final half hour arena sequence are presented in a leisurely fashion.
The only "oomph" this production gets is in the supporting performances of Laughton's Nero (only two scenes in Act One and two in Act Two) and Colbert's Poppaea (four scenes in Act One and two in Act Two). The two share three of their scenes together. If only we'd had more of them, the production might have been spicier.
The VHS remastering of the complete original with restored scenes is visually stunning. The soundtrack however suffers from an electronic wobble from the projector being used which is quite noticeable in Act One for about a half hour of the film's running time. There is an Intermission which occurs 75 minutes into the film with Intermission Music played over a black screen before the second act begins.
If you are a fan of films dealing with Christianity and/or Rome, this is a must-have. It wouldn't be until nearly twenty years later (MGM's QUO VADIS
1951) that Hollywood came back to this dual theme. The latter's
boxoffice returns inspired the CinemaScope production, THE ROBE, and from then on Roman and Biblical epics were a genre.
If you are not a fan of either genre, your enjoyment may only come from Colbert and Laughton's brief scenes and the concluding arena segment.
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