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>
Although widely regarded as the first film produced in the anamorphic CinemaScope format (along with How To Marry A Millionaire), that honour actually belongs to a French film shot in the late-1920s called Construire Un Feu (To Build A Fire). Based on a Jack London story and directed by Claude Autant-Lara, it utilised a lens developed by French astronomer Henri Chrétien and was patented as the Hypergonar process.
Bizarrely, higher-ups in the French film industry demanded that cinema owners stop showing the film, even threatening them with a revocation of their exhibition license should they not comply immediately. This perhaps explains why there are no surviving prints of this landmark film: indeed, only a scant handful of frames exist to this day.
In 1955, Chrétien received an Academy Award for his work on CinemaScope. See more »
In the opening scene in the Roman Forum there is a statue of the Roman poet, Antinuous, who was not born until 80 years or so after Christ's death. See more »
There seems to be little interest in this movie today but when originally released in 1953, it created a sensation and threatened, for a while, to replace "Gone With the Wind" as the highest-grossing film in history. And it was the first movie in CinemaScope -- "The Modern Entertainment Miracle You See Without the Use of Glasses!" Its opening half still plays well, even some 50 years later, but the second half tries to convincingly present the religious conversion of Marcellus -- a tricky proposition since it deals with an internal process -- and the result plays like a well-intentioned but rather simplistic Sunday sermon. Richard Burton was Oscar-nominated for his work but is clearly outshone by, of all people, Victor Mature as the slave, Demetrius. The scene of a sweaty, nearly naked Demetrius groaning and writhing under torture in a Roman dungeon helped establish Mature as "the back that launched a thousand whips." (The book "Lash! The Hundred Great Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies" is dedicated to him.) Mature played Demetrius again in one of the rare big-budget sequels of the 1950s, "Demetrius and the Gladiators," which wasn't very good but which was livelier and more "fun" than its pious predecessor.
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