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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cecil B. DeMille deliberately cast Claudette Colbert against type as Poppaea. Until then, Colbert had been playing innocent ingénue roles, and this was her first 'wicked' role, which she relished playing. See more »
We see a woman tied up in the Coliseum as crocodiles are set loose on her. They are clearly alligators (broad snout), which were unknown to Europeans until Columbus's time, 15 centuries later. Only two countries have alligators: The United States and China.The Romans never went to either place. See more »
My head is splitting... the wine last night, the music... the delicious debauchery!
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The Sign of the Cross is clearly a movie about the Roman way of living more than the virtues of Christianity. There are scenes of graphic violence, debauchery and nudity as well as overtones of lesbianism - intermingled with scenes displaying the morality of Christian followers. It is a movie which perhaps the Christian community of that time would have been proud of. The character of Mercia (Elissa Landi) is portrayed as a Christian martyr whose sole aim in life is to follow her faith.
On the other hand, there are too many scenes in which Cecil B DeMille lets his imagination run riot and too many beautifully portrayed characterizations of evil for this film to be a religious film. It plays like a biblical epic but its content is very different from its silent predecessors. The characterizations of Poppaea (Claudette Colbert) and Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) are perfectly realised as a personification of evil. The scenes of brutality in the arena and scenes during Marcus' (Frederic March) banquet leave us without doubt that this movie is for the voyeur.
The direction by De Mille is inspired, as are Laughton and Colbert's performances. However, Frederic March has the difficult task of standing up to these two egos as well as acting alongside an ineffective leading lady. It is not surprising that his performance suffers because of this.
Overall, the movie is very interesting because of the era it was made in, because of the wonderful direction, and because it has stood the test of time - it can still shock audiences now!
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