Epic account of the thief Barabbas, who was spared crucifixion when Pilate manipulated the crowd into to pardoning him, rather than Jesus. Struggling with his spirituality, Barabbas goes through many ordeals leading him to the gladiatorial arena, where he tries to win his freedom and confront his inner demons, ultimately becoming a follower of the man who was crucified in his place.Written by
Whatever happened to that guy who was let off the hook when Jesus was crucified? Here is a fictional account of his life after he was released in Jesus' place. Quinn plays the title character, a thief and rabble-rouser who is set to be crucified when a technicality allows one prisoner to be released due to a holy day. It is brought up in order to free Jesus, but the crowd instead calls for Barabbas' freedom and stay of execution. Quinn spots Jesus briefly through piercing sunlight, then finds himself touching the blood that he's left on a post. He shakes it off and returns home only to find that his lover (Mangano) has fallen under Jesus' spell and won't play anymore. Soon, he has returned to his old ways and when he's arrested, he discovers he can't be killed due to the same technicality that freed him the first time! So he's shipped off to a harrowing sulfur mine where he is chained to man after man, each of them dying in turn until he's paired with an ideological Christian (Gassman.) Circumstances then lead this pair to the Roman Coliseum where they are trained in the art of gladiatorial combat and must face down the deranged and powerful Palance. As the many years go by, Quinn finds himself tempted to believe in Jesus, but always wavering until finally he must make a choice. The film is epic in story and scope with several memorable sequences including a solar eclipse, a stoning execution, a cataclysmic cave-in and a spectacular visit to the Coliseum. The film must be seen in its wide-screen format in order to appreciate the magnitude of its composition. Quinn gives an understated performance with surprisingly little dialogue. His grunting, mumbling approach near the beginning fortunately gives way to a more comprehensible, accessible performance later. The film has a parade of famous actors each of whom is billed in order of appearance except for Mangano (who unfairly gets special treatment due to her marriage to the producer!) It's really Quinn's show, but several others get a chance to shine. Gassman is given a heroic and dignified role, Andrews adds weight to the film with his surehanded presence and Palance is quite notable as the unbeatable gladiator. With his ear-to-ear, snarling grin and his stony stares at his opponents, he presents a formidable foe in the arena. The production is quite eye-filling and visually arresting, but also relentlessly downbeat. Jurado, as Quinn's second favorite bed-mate, adds a little earthy humor to the proceedings, but is dispatched without much ado. There is a tad of unintentional humor along the way thanks to some of the conventions of film-making at the time, but mostly from the entire sequence featuring Lazarus, recently risen from the dead and not looking too great for it! The hysterically wan and creepy looking performer does little to encourage anyone's desire to be resurrected! It's an oddly under-appreciated film, though, which can stand proudly aside its cousins such as "Ben-Hur" and "Spartacus".
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