Theodora, Slave Empress (1954)
"Teodora, imperatrice di Bisanzio" (original title)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Adventure, Romance  |  20 December 1954 (USA)
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Teodora, a Roman courtesan and former slave girl, marries the Roman emperor Justinian and assumes the throne as Empress of Rome. But the divide between nobility and slave is too great. ... See full summary »



(story) (as André Paul Antoine) , (story), 4 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Georges Marchal ...
Gianna Maria Canale ...
Renato Baldini ...
Carlo Sposito ...
Scarpios (as Carletto Sposíto)
Nerio Bernardi ...
Olga Solbelli ...
Alessandro Fersen ...
Loris Gizzi ...
Umberto Silvestri ...
L'atleta cieco
Mario Siletti ...
Il magistrato
Oscar Andriani ...
il difensore di Scarpios
Giovanni Fagioli ...
Il cancelliere di corte
Giovanni di Cappadocia
Roger Pigaut ...


Teodora, a Roman courtesan and former slave girl, marries the Roman emperor Justinian and assumes the throne as Empress of Rome. But the divide between nobility and slave is too great. Teodora seeks justice for her people, and revolution and armed conflict erupt in both Byzantium and Rome. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Mistress Of A Barbaric Empire - Master Of An Unconquerable Emperor! [us]


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Release Date:

20 December 1954 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Theodora, Slave Empress  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)


(Ferraniacolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The gigantic settings were built in Rome on grounds intended for an international fair to take place in 1943, but never took place because of the war. See more »


Remake of Theodora (1921) See more »

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User Reviews

THEODORA, SLAVE EMPRESS (Riccardo Freda, 1954) ***
16 April 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This is certainly among the most impressive peplums and one of Freda's very best films (which runs 87 minutes rather than the by-all-accounts fictitious one of 124 listed over at the IMDb!); it is also a significant vehicle for the director's wife Gianna Maria Canale (perhaps surpassed only by her turn in the seminal horror outing I VAMPIRI {1956}, co-directed by Freda and Mario Bava). The leading man, then, is Luis Bunuel regular Georges Marchal: like Canale herself, he would flourish within the field and, in fact, I intend checking out three more during this Epic Easter marathon.

After the black-and-white and merely standard SINS OF ROME (1953), Freda turned to color for his subsequent spectacle which, apart from drawing on Alessandro Blasetti's virtual genre template FABIOLA (1948), was inspired by the likes of Sergei Eisenstein's IVAN THE TERRIBLE (1942-6) for its look – and the result is a truly opulent production. On the other hand, the chariot-race set-piece (in which both stars meet the challenge head-on!) is a veritable dry-run – albeit reprehensibly featuring some of the worst horse-falls I have ever seen! – for the celebrated one in William Wyler's BEN-HUR (1959). The way in which the protagonists 'meet cute' is also memorable: Marchal is the Emperor Justinian who, while mingling incognito with the crowds in a market place, is nearly robbed of a medallion by commoner/dancer/lion-tamer Canale! Of course, the two fall in love and marry but her surprising subsequent influence at court (incidentally, though the print I watched – derived from a late-night Italian TV screening – simply bore the heroine's name, the film is better-known by its full title which translates to THEODORA, EMPRESS OF BYZANTIUM!) is inconvenient to those patricians who seek to overthrow the Emperor! By the way, the plot unfolds in flashback (narrated by the now-aged hero), so that we are left wondering about Canale's fate – for the record, even her own sister (played by a young Irene Papas) bears her ill-will – until the very last moments of the film!

Unfortunately, the Emperor proves to be rather gullible and his wife's relationship with a former beau (which she keeps up as a means of co-ordinating a full-bodied resistance) is misconstrued as an adulterous affair – resulting in Marchal's frequent outbursts of name-calling! This turn-of-events lends an unexpected amour fou connotation to the proceedings which, while bordering on the contrived, culminates in a remarkable sequence in which Canale is surrounded by Marchal's loyal troops ready for the kill…before a horde of steeds, and eventually, lions is unleashed upon the soldiers! By this time, however, Marchal has been alerted to the truth vis-a'-vis who his real allies are, with the intended usurper at long last spewing his bile against the Emperor – amusingly begrudging the latter's handsome athleticism having been favored by the Gods over his own, as Wile E. Coyote would so unforgettably put it, "pure unadulterated genius"!

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