Biopic of Constantine the Great, set between 293-312 AD, from his days as Tribune to his accession as Roman Emperor of Gaul under the tetrarchy system and ending with his battle against the usurper Roman Emperor Maxentius in Rome.
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Somewhat fictionalized dramatic account of Late Roman Emperor Constantine, his rise to power, and his establishment of religious tolerance among Roman subjects. Constantine's adoption of Christianity allowed this small persecuted religion to sweep throughout Europe as the empire's power waned.Written by
Cornel Wilde was one of many stars to go to Europe to escape U.S. taxes at the same time roles were drying up for him. Victor Mature was another, Alan Ladd made that dreadful Duel of the Champions. At least Mature and Wilde were suited for these kind of films even if the ones they made in Italy weren't exactly high up on their credit list.
Case in point is Constantine and the Cross. The Emperor Constantine by his conversion to Christianity, the faith of his mother Helena was what made Christianity the faith of Europe. More importantly than that, after the action of this film is over, Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea which essentially was the body that organized the Bible. It decided what stories went in, what accounts like that famous Gospel of Thomas did not make the cut. It's influenced us for good and for bad right down to today.
He's a most important and complex figure Constantine and deserves far better treatment in a filmed biography than what he gets here. Maybe a good television mini-series. This film is a fictionalized account of his succession as Emperor and his conversion to Christianity.
Legend has it that on the eve of battle he had a vision of a cross in the sky and the voice of the Deity telling him that by this sign he shall conquer. Whether he heard the voice or not is subject to speculation. There is no doubt he kicked some serious pagan butt the following day, which is shown here. Sadly the color is fading and the film could use a restoration. What can't be restored is the cliché driven script of this sand and sandal epic that Italy churned out by the dozens in the fifties and sixties, using all those sets built by MGM for Quo Vadis and Ben-Hur. In fact a lot of the plot here is lifted from Quo Vadis.
Besides Wilde, the only other names known to western audiences would be Christine Kauffman and Belinda Lee. Kauffman later became the second Mrs. Tony Curtis after they met on the set of her next film, Taras Bulba. She plays the innocent Christian girl Livia.
Sadly there were no more films for Belinda Lee, voluptuous British starlet who had abandoned the UK for films in Italy where her attributes could be more fully exploited. She was killed in Southern California in a car crash where she was vacationing right after completing Constantine and the Cross. No doubt she was also there looking to break into the American cinema as well. She plays Constantine's wife Fausta.
Again, past the action in this film the by now Empress Fausta was caught stepping out on Constantine. In that instance, Constantine went back to the old Roman way of dealing with an unfaithful spouse. That too would be part of a mini-series of his story.
If Belinda Lee had lived she might very well have gotten all the parts that Joan Collins later received. She's the best reason for checking out Constantine and the Cross.
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