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>
Cecil B. DeMille was pressured to drop Ancaria's seductive dance in the orgy scene by Will H. Hays of the Hays Office, but DeMille adamantly refused. Still, censors often cut out gruesome parts of the film, particularly, the cart carrying dead bodies out of the arena, a gorilla dancing around a semi-nude girl, elephants stomping Christians and picking them up with their tusks, crocodiles about to eat a bound girl, etc. These scenes are all in the restored version. See more »
A gorilla is seen menacing a chained Christian woman in the arena but in reality gorilla's where not seen until 1856-59 when explorer Paul Du Chaillu became the first westerner to see a live gorilla during his travel through western equatorial Africa . See more »
My head is splitting... the wine last night, the music... the delicious debauchery!
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Lest we forget, Cecil B. DeMille wasn't always the revered director of religious epics. He got his start as a studio hack in silent films, where he made his name by being able to get more sex into major studio films than anyone else. How did he get all that horndoggery past the studio bluenoses? He made sure to include a lot of preachy scenes between the sexy ones, somehow that made it all OK.
This film is the high point of that trend. Amazing amounts of Roman Decadence of all kinds are lovingly detailed, and sugar-coated with a story about early Christian martyrs being fed to the lions (also shown at length, with as much nudity and sadism as possible). My favorite scene, the one that I consider to be the whole movie in a nutshell: Roman playboy Frederic March is in love with a Christian girl, and of course she virtuously spurns his advances even though she loves him too. So... to heat her up he takes her to an orgy where he has a barely-dressed woman grope her all over! And how did Mr. DeMille sell this to a conservative and prudish country? It's interrupted by the sound of martyrs singing hymns outside as they're led to the arena!
Who knew your grandma went to see lesbianism and orgies at the movies!
The acting is almost universally stiff and stagy the way most acting was in the days when sound was new, Frederic March gives the only bad performance I've ever seen from him. There are two exceptions to the general woodenness; Claudette Colbert hadn't established her knack for light comedy yet, she plays the evil and sexy Empress Poppea pretty well. And Charles Laughton as the Mad Emperor Nero has to be seen to be believed! He was probably the most charismatic actor ever captured on film; when he was good he was breathtaking, and when he was bad he was BAD! Unbelievably, overwhelmingly, utterly watchably bad! Like he is here! Imagine Charles Laughton sucking his thumb like a gigantic, mad, drunken, happy baby!
Not a good movie, too much sadism, even some towards children. Still, there is much for a fan of the weird and awful to see.
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