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Martin Luther (1953)

Biopic of German priest Martin Luther covering his life between 1505-1530 A.D. and the birth of the Protestant Reformation movement.



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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Niall MacGinnis ...
John Ruddock ...
Pierre Lefevre ...
Guy Verney ...
Alastair Hunter ...
David Horne ...
Duke Frederick
Fred Johnson ...
Philip Leaver ...
Heinz Piper ...
Dr. Eck
Leonard White ...
Egon Strohm ...
Cardinal Alexander
Annette Carell ...
Katherine von Bora (as Annette Carrell)
Alexander Gauge ...
Henry Oscar


This biographical account of Martin Luther's actions that eventually created the Protestant and Lutheran religions was filmed in conjunction with the Lutheran Church. Niall MacGinnis portrays the monk who's nailing of his list of 95 theses to the church door in Worms created a stir so large that it shook the very foundations of the Catholic Church. This film shows the struggle between Luther and the organized church and how the Catholic Church was not fully explaining things he questioned, which led him to be labeled a heretic. Written by Anonymous

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Martin Luther's protest changed the course of Western history See more »


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Release Date:

25 October 1954 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Martin Luther  »

Box Office


$500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the time, film was banned in Peru, Egypt and the Philippines. See more »


Version of Luther (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

MARTIN LUTHER (Irving Pichel, 1953) ***
20 March 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This was included in a budget 3-Disc Set comprising ten religious-themed efforts which have fallen into the Public Domain; indeed, it was the most desirable title of the lot and it turned out to be pretty good. Incidentally, four other small-scale films found on this collection were produced by various evangelical groups and, in fact, so was this biopic. Though compromised in this edition by the softness (and slight damage) of the available print, the handsome production afforded the film itself resulted in two Academy Award nominations (uncommon for an independently-made effort) – best cinematography and best black-and-white art direction/set decoration.

MARTIN LUTHER is a curious collaboration between three countries – the U.S., Germany (from where Martin Luther himself emanated) and the U.K.; in fact, while the director (and bit-part actor) Irving Pichel is an American, the lead here is played – superbly, I might add – by the Irish character actor Niall MacGinnis (perhaps best-known for his chilling portrayal of Karswell, the occult-practicing villain of Jacques Tourneur’s CURSE OF THE DEMON [1957]). His thoughtful performance is very effective in illustrating the various facets of Luther’s personality: his initial inner conflicts, the laying-down of (and firm conviction in) his own beliefs, as well as the strength necessary for opposing the power of the Church (facing disrepute from both his peers and his congregation, not to mention an eventual excommunication). Furthermore, we’re also shown the build-up of support to his particular credo where it attracts people from all walks of life…and even lands him a wife!

The script does quite well in delineating the essential difference between the doctrine of the Catholic Church (in its most oppressive state, back when it was still a political force to be reckoned with) and Luther’s pragmatic but no less steadfast approach to religion: the latter favors a strict adherence to Scriptures in the face of the Church’s fire-and-brimstone teachings (resorting to the deception of ignorant parishioners by proposing the worship of worthless holy relics and the offer of money in order to obtain indulgences in the afterlife, or the callous bestowing of titles upon non-clerical albeit aristocratic subjects).

When I was in Hollywood in 2005, I had caught LUTHER (1974) on TV: directed by Guy Green from a stage rendition by John Osborne and featuring Stacy Keach in the title role, it’s been released on DVD by Kino as part of “The American Film Theater Collection”. While that version, too, was undeniably interesting and effective, the earlier cinematic i.e. less stagey treatment was perhaps the more satisfactory; by the way, there’s been an even more recent biopic of the famous religious figure starring Joseph Fiennes, which is readily available from my local DVD rental outlet.

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