6.9/10
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24 user 4 critic

Martin Luther (1953)

Biopic of German priest Martin Luther (Niall MacGinnis), covering his life between 1505 and 1530 A.D., and the birth of the Protestant Reformation movement.

Director:

Irving Pichel

Writers:

Allan Sloane (researched and prepared for the screen by), Lothar Wolff (researched and prepared for the screen by) | 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Niall MacGinnis ... Martin Luther
John Ruddock John Ruddock ... Vicar von Staupitz
Pierre Lefevre Pierre Lefevre ... Spalatin
Guy Verney Guy Verney ... Melanchthon
Alastair Hunter ... Carlstadt (as Allastair Hunter)
David Horne ... Duke Frederick
Fred Johnson ... Prior
Philip Leaver ... Pope Leo X
Heinz Piper ... Dr. Eck
Leonard White Leonard White ... Emissary
Egon Strohm Egon Strohm ... Cardinal Alexander
Annette Carell ... Katherine von Bora (as Annette Carrell)
Alexander Gauge Alexander Gauge ... Tetzel
Henry Oscar
Irving Pichel ... Brueck
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Storyline

This biographical account of Martin Luther's actions that eventually created the Lutheran and Protestant denominations was filmed in conjunction with the Lutheran Church. Niall MacGinnis portrays the friar whose nailing of the ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg created such a stir that it shook the foundations of the medieval Church. This movie shows the struggle between Luther and Rome, and how the medieval Church did not fully explain things he questioned, which led to him to be labelled a heretic.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Magnificent Motion Picture For Our Time! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

West Germany | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 October 1954 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Martin Luther See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was never released in Québec, Canada. At the time, Québec's movie censorship board (made up entirely of French-speaking Catholics) refused to approve this movie to be shown in Québec's movie theaters. Therefore, it could only be shown in the basements of Québec's Protestant churches. See more »

Connections

Featured in Wormwood: Chapter 2: A Terrible Mistake (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

 
MARTIN LUTHER (Irving Pichel, 1953) ***
20 March 2008 | by Bunuel1976See 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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