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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Every Roman soldier in the film inexplicably carries his sword on his right hip. Thus forcing viewers to conclude that every soldier in Rome is left-handed. 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 »
I am not a huge fan of the religious epics of the 1950s. For every good one, such as "Ben Hur", there seemed to be two turkeys--such as "David and Bathsheba" or "Samson and Delilah". Because of that, I have avoided watching "Demetrius and the Gladiators" for many years. However, after completing the task, I am surprised that I actually enjoyed the film very much.
When Twentieth Century-Fox filmed "The Robe", they already knew that it would be followed up by "Demetrius and the Gladiators". In fact, the movies were filmed like one huge film and then separated into two as the studio was THAT confident that "The Robe" would be a big hit--which it was. And, for that matter, so was its sequel. Fortunately, you can watch either without watching the other.
The film begins with a clip from the previous film--just before the two main characters (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons) were executed. Soon you learn that the Apostle Peter and his followers (including Demetrius--Victor Mature) are the keepers of the robe that Jesus wore to the cross. Oddly, however, the Emperor Caligula is very fascinated by the robe and insists he must have it. When Demetrius tries to hide it, he's sentenced by this loony emperor to become a gladiator--a sure death since Demetrius has vowed never to fight now that he's become a Christian. However, the lure sexy Messalina (Susan Hayward) and his own desire to live make it difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill this oath. What's next? See for yourself.
There's no doubt about it--this film is a spectacle. It has huge scenes, huge gladiatorial fights and lots of beautiful sets and costumes. While it's not a fantastic film, the action is there and the film is fascinating. Part of this is due to the supporting performances. William Marshall shows what a wonderfully unsung actor he was. Had he been born later, his wonderful voice and acting skills would have made him a top star--something not possible for a black actor during this age. Additionally, while Jay Robinson's version of Caligula is not in the least bit subtle, it IS very entertaining and fun to watch. All in all, a decent film that is far better than I'd suspected.
UPDATE: Since this review, I've finally seen the precursor, "The Robe", and was surprised just how bad it was compared to "Demetrius and the Gladiators. It's an odd example of a film whose sequel was better--much better.
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