In times of great upheaval during Passover in early-first-century Jerusalem, the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, finds himself before a pressing dilemma. As part of a tradition, the indecisive ruler offers the agitated crowd the choice to have either Jesus of Nazareth or the murderer, Barabbas, released from Roman custody; but, instead, the people demand the release of the thief. Now, as Jesus takes Barabbas' place on the cross, an inhumane act of punishment paves the way for an arduous spiritual journey of faith, leading Barabbas to Sicily's dark sulphur mines, and the blood-soaked soil of Emperor Nero's Coliseum. Will Jesus' sacrifice set Barabbas, the slave, free?Written by
The theme used throughout the film is the Gregorian Mass of the Angels. See more »
The gladiators are fighting in an huge amphitheater, clearly intended to be the Colosseum, but since the action is taking place during the reign of Nero (St Peter is alive in Rome) the Colosseum will not be completed for at least another 15 years. See more »
Gladiator Barabbas, you're becoming quite a legend among us, I hear. For your remarkable persistence in life, we have a traditional answer to this public acclaim. We make you a free man. We give you your liberty. Here is the symbol of your freedom!
[holds up a carved staff for everybody to see, then tosses it into the arena next to Barabbas' feet; he picks it up and slowly exitst the Coliseum]
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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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