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>
The play was first performed in the United States as part of a theatrical tour which started in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1895, but became a sensation when it opened in London, England, UK on 27 May 1895. See more »
In the Coliseum, we see a woman tied up and is at the mercy of a gorilla. Europeans had no knowledge of gorillas' existence until more than 15 centuries later. 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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