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 wants it back to benefit from its powers. Marcellus' former slave Demetrius seeks to prevent this, and catches the eye of Messalina, wife to Caligula's uncle Claudius. Messalina tempts Demetrius, he winds up fighting in the arena, and wavers in his faith.Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Twice jailed for drug use, Jay Robinson once had the dubious honor of being recognized by his fellow inmates when this film was played for the convicts. See more »
Caligula was murdered by several conspirators in an underground passageway, not in an arena by one man. Claudius was found hiding behind a curtain, certain he would be murdered as well since he was Caligula's uncle before being proclaimed the new emperor. Finally, there is no mention of Caligula's wife and daughter who were also assassinated. See more »
Christian. Do you renounce your false god ? This king of an invisible kingdom... who expects to come back some day and rule the earth ?
[after a long pause]
There is no other king but Caesar. There is no power greater than his, in this world, or any other.
By the mercy of Caesar, you are a free man.
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A sequel to the box office successful "The Robe", this film is just one more of those spectacular epic films of the 50's and early 60's settled in ancient Rome and with a religious background of the early Christians and their whereabouts in an all pagan world.
After a secondary lead in "The Robe", Victor Mature (as the freed Christian slave Demetrius) takes here the centre of the stage and the film deals with his story; the man looses his faith and recovers it after fighting as a gladiator in the arena, becoming a Decurion for Emperor Caligula and having a passionate affair with the woman (Messalina) married to the weak emperor's uncle Claudius (Barry Jones). The film is most colourful, the script is not bad as well as the costumes and armors, the settings and reproduction of the old Rome are good enough (no computers back in 1954) and some action sequences in the arena are well achieved. But somehow this picture lacks the sort of sensation of greatness and huge spectacle other products of the genre transmitted ("The Robe" itself, the previous "Quo Vadis?" or the posterior "Ben Hur" and "Spartacus"); in fact, "Demetrius and the Gladiators" is not one of the titles that comes to mind easily when epic spectacular films is the subject.
Victor Mature shows his inevitable overacting as the main character though it is fair to say he has done worse ("The Egyptian" and "Samson and Delilah", for instance, and many others). Susan Hayward also overacts every now and then as the wicked Messalina but she was a fine actress and rounds up a better job. Jay Robinson clearly overacts and very much as Calìgula (Caius Germanicus was his real name) but in his case it appears to be a conscious performing decision after he was the most remembered character in the previous "The Robe"; he just lets himself go without limits. It is hard to swallow Michael Rennie (Peter) as a rude uneducated fisherman not for his acting but for his important and polite looks. There are good performances by Ernest Borgnine, Richard Egan (as a villainous gladiator), Barry Jones, Anne Bancroft and William Marshall (far before his "Blacula" days). Debra Paget delivers her acceptable acting but she looks as a contemporary girl here (she could have used the same hairdo and make up for her real life in the middle 50's).
All in all, "Demetrius and the Gladiators" is a watchable and entertaining product, but no much more than that in my opinion. A 6 (out of 10) for me.
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