Marcellus is a tribune in the time of Christ. He is in charge of the group that is assigned to crucify Jesus. Drunk, he wins Jesus' homespun robe after the crucifixion. He is tormented by ... See full summary »
The story picks up at the point where "The Robe (1953)" ends, following the martyrdom of Diana and Marcellus. Christ's robe is conveyed to Peter for safe-keeping, but the emperor Caligula ... See full summary »
Action-packed look at the beginnings of the fall of the Roman Empire. Here is the glory, the greed and grandeur that was Rome. Here is the story of personal lust for power, and the ... See full summary »
Marcellus is a tribune in the time of Christ. He is in charge of the group that is assigned to crucify Jesus. Drunk, he wins Jesus' homespun robe after the crucifixion. He is tormented by nightmares and delusions after the event. Hoping to find a way to live with what he has done, and still not believing in Jesus, he returns to Palestine to try and learn what he can of the man he killed. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
This is my pick for Easter. Almost all the objections and criticisms to this film can be waved away with the not so simple explanation that it is, after all, only a Hollywood studio (1953) adaptation of a Lloyd C. Douglas novel. So forgive the clichés and the big set piece sword-fight and the chase scene and the goofy ending where the hero and his girl literally walk up to heaven to the yodeling of a choir of angels. Instead be thankful for wonderful sets --the very fine musical score--the interesting characterizations and the solid photography and direction. (This was the first Cinemascope movie released).
Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) is a swaggering, slightly debauched Roman Tribune from a good family who is exiled out to provincial garrison duty after insulting the future Emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson). He lands in the "sinkhole" of Jerusalem for what turns out to be a very short stay. But, before being recalled to Rome he is given orders from Pontius Pilate to carry out the execution of Jesus. Marcellus "loses his reason" after taking part in the crucifixion. The movie then follows his travails as he seeks to regain his sanity by finding and destroying Christ's robe - A relic that he feels is at the root of his affliction.
Richard Burton received an Oscar nomination for this role -though this is clearly not his best work. I like Burton -however he seems to have trouble in this picture in doing much more than projecting a rather sullen-if sometimes eloquent petulance. He doesn't stray very far from this grim pose whether he is the playboy in Rome or the slack and dissolute officer in Palestine or the tortured madman being interviewed by Emperor Tiberius (Ernest Theisger) in Capri. Even his later "rebirth" as a convert to Christianity doesn't serve to "perk" him up very much. Maybe the real problem with his performance is that he often has little to say ..... the best dialogue in the movie is given to some of the fine actors around him.
If you enjoy looking at beautiful young women who personify grace, dignity and intelligence---then watch Jean Simmons as the love interest (Diana). She has several nice speeches throughout the movie -my personal favorite being her sentiments of loyalty for the mad Marcellus as expressed to Tiberius ("When you won a battle Sire -you could expect to receive the admiration of your men...but when you lost...what would you have given then to have the eagles raised in your honor and your name on every man's lips?"). It's disappointing that she gets "preachy" at the end of the film and makes a clumsy conversion to Christianity that yields her only instant martyrdom.
Victor Mature is good as Marcellus' Greek slave (Demetrius). A single wordless glance from Jesus in an encounter on Palm Sunday is enough to set him on the path to Christianity. He attempts to warn Jesus of his impending arrest (stumbling on to the suicidal Judas in the effort) and even begs Marcellus to intercede for the condemned man. He later heaps justifiable abuse on his master and on all that Rome represents. He is afterwards rescued by the "reborn" Marcellus and lives to appear in the uninspired sequel to this movie.
Jeff Morrow (Paulus) is unheralded but great as the grizzled and cynical veteran officer subordinate to Marcellus. Morrow is often allowed expository observations about the passing scenes in Jerusalem -while all Burton can do is listen and frown. Paulus offers Marcellus some practical advice before they go to carry out the execution order against Jesus. He encourages Marcellus to drink his wine and when he hesitates Paulus chides him with "This is your first execution isn't it?--What? Never driven nails into a man's flesh before?" Paulus clashes with Marcellus much later - after the latter has converted --and they engage in a sword fight --but not before Paulus taunts his former superior with: "Make me obey Tribune --you outrank me but I earned my rank- every step of the way in Gaul, Iberia and Africa against the enemies of Rome--Make me obey Tribune. If you're fool enough to try. Oh! You are a fool! I've split more men from head to foot than you see in this square." Needless to say....our lusty Tribune does make him obey.
Thesiger as Tiberius and Robinson as Caligula are excellent. Thesiger dominates the screen with impressive theatrical flair and Robinson projects just the right amount of arrogance, instability and menace as Caligula. I have seen some reviewers complain that Robinson goes "over the top" as Caligulabut let's face it....Caligula did have some "issues" and you would have to scale Everest to go "over the top" on him.
A decent attempt is made in this movie to highlight the virtues of honesty and charity exhibited by the early Christians -- Betta St John is featured as the crippled Miriam- she sings a song of the resurrection.
One thing that I find interesting is the perspective that "The Robe" offers into the political atmosphere of 1950's America. This film was made right at the time of McCarthy. The Cold War was raging. You will notice that while few punches are pulled as to the corruption and brutality of Rome great care is taken not to turn the hero of the movie (Marcellus) into a direct enemy of the state itself. In fact -he denies the charges of treason against him at the end of the picture and even agrees to renew his allegiance to the monster, Caligula. He is only defiant when ordered to renounce Christ ---otherwise he would apparently be satisfied to submit. I believe that this presents to us a glimpse of the paranoia abroad in the land in the early Fifties--- when anything seen to undermined any established order of things--smacked of commie subversion and probably made the studio just a tad nervous.
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