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La spada e la croce (1958)

Set against the magnificent backdrop of classic Rome, "The Sword and the Cross" is the story of a notorious harlot who must choose between her lascivious lifestyle and the love and affection of her decent-minded brother.


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Complete credited cast:
Maria Maddalena
Caio Marcello
Massimo Serato ...
Andrea Aureli ...
Lazzaro (as Mario Girotti)
Nando Tamberlani ...
Philippe Hersent ...
Nadia Brivio
Bob Morgan ...
Giuda (as Roberto Morgani)
Aldo Pini
Giulio Battiferri ...
Franco Fantasia ...
Roberto Cesana


Set against the magnificent backdrop of classic Rome, "The Sword and the Cross" is the story of a notorious harlot who must choose between her lascivious lifestyle and the love and affection of her decent-minded brother.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

22 December 1958 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Mary Magdalene  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Version of Mary Magdalene (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

The Passion Play meets the peplum in this Italian "spectacle"
31 December 2011 | by (NYC suburbs) – See all my reviews

The Passion Play gets the peplum treatment from director Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, a genre-friendly "auteur" responsible for such sword & sandal "classics" as QUEEN OF BABYLON, HANNIBAL, AMAZONS OF ROME, URSUS IN THE VALLEY OF THE LIONS and THE LOVES OF HERCULES in a 30-year career that thrived under Mussolini's reign. This one stars a slightly over-the-hill Yvonne De Carlo as Mary Magdalene, the Hebrew harlot everyone's crazy about -from swashbuckling Roman centurion Gaius Marcellus (handsome Jorge Mistral) to that rabble-rouser Barrabas- but for the love of God, she's only got eyes for the Nazarine after suddenly seeing the light one night. During a banquet orgy, the raven-tressed Yvonne did a seductive dance wearing a gold half-mask and a sea of red chiffon in an attempt to arouse a holy man but she got religion right in the middle of it, blanching like something got lodged in her throat before running out of the room to become a goody two-shoes.

As was the custom at the time in most movies, Christ's visage is never shown and when He's on screen, events are seen from His POV. He also appears as a distant, ghostly figure in Mary's garden after her disastrous, disrupted dance whereupon the jezebel of Magdala immediately gives up her wanton ways much to the displeasure of her scheming benefactor, the Jew Hannan (the always hissable Massimo Serato, a genre favorite), who happens to be an old friend of Gaius (a la Ben Hur), the Roman dispatched to quell a rebellion against Pontius Pilate. Mary's miraculous conversion very nearly gets her stoned to death when she attempts to attend Temple and, of course, it also puts the kabosh on the blossoming romance between the courtesan and the centurion. In this fanciful, Cliff's Notes version of the Magdalene's involvement in the life of Jesus, Lazarus (future "spaghetti western" star Terence Hill) is Mary's brother-in-law and the thankless role of her virtuous sister Martha is played by lovely Rossana Podestà who was Hollywood's HELEN OF TROY only a few short years before. Sexy guest star Rossana Rory is also wasted as Pilate's covertly Christian wife but, in all fairness, Miss De Carlo is the star of the picture (and, most likely, its raison d'etre) although the deluded conceit that anything in pants (or, in this case, toga & tunic) would fall head-over-heels for the somewhat past-her-prime glamour girl doesn't exactly aid in the suspension of disbelief.

Yvonne, no stranger to the Bible after her turn as Moses' wife in Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, still can't act but, no matter -she's gorgeous and, as a reviewer noted back in '52, "the lady has an airy self-assurance that suggests, bless her heart, the public can either take it or leave it." Her real-life husband, stuntman Bob Morgan, has a small role billed as Roberto Morgani and would later be crippled during the making of HOW THE WEST WAS WON. The prerequisite battle scene towards the end which culminates in a sword fight between Barrabus & Gaius and the wind & rain after the Crucifixion are also amusing but, as one of the few Yvonne De Carlo movies I hadn't seen, this was something of a holy grail and I was pleasantly surprised to discover it wasn't as godawful as I'd imagined. That's not to say the movie was any good but this Italian "spectacle" (in more ways than one) was lots of fun, nonetheless, and made for some great alternative holiday viewing.

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