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The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Approved | | Drama, History, War | 26 March 1964 (USA)
The death of Marcus Aurelius leads to a succession crisis, in which the deceased emperor's son, Commodus, demonstrates that he is unwilling to let anything undermine his claim to the Roman Empire.

Director:

Anthony Mann

Writers:

Ben Barzman (screenplay), Basilio Franchina (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sophia Loren ... Lucilla
Stephen Boyd ... Livius
Alec Guinness ... Marcus Aurelius
James Mason ... Timonides
Christopher Plummer ... Commodus
Anthony Quayle ... Verulus
John Ireland ... Ballomar
Omar Sharif ... Sohamus
Mel Ferrer ... Cleander
Eric Porter ... Julianus
Finlay Currie ... Senator
Andrew Keir ... Polybius
Douglas Wilmer ... Niger
George Murcell ... Victorinus
Norman Wooland ... Virgilianus
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Storyline

Action-packed look at the beginnings of the fall of the Roman Empire. Here is the glory, the greed and grandeur that was Rome. Here is the story of personal lust for power, and the shattering effects of that power's loss. Here is the tale of the plight of a people living on the brink of a political abyss. Written by filmfactsman

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Spectacle! Passions! Savagery! See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 March 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La caída del imperio romano See more »

Filming Locations:

Comunidad Valenciana, Spain See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$19,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,750,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1970 re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm optical prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Budgeted at about twenty million dollars, this was Paramount Pictures' biggest flop of 1964. Its failure cost Producer Samuel Bronston his Spanish production facility. See more »

Goofs

It is general opinion that Marcus Aurelius was not assassinated, neither by poison, as in THE FALL, nor by asphyxiation, as in Ridley Scott's GLADIATOR. Instead the general conclusion is that MA died of disease, aggravated by exhaustion after endless years of constant fighting. See more »

Quotes

Senator: How does an empire die? Does it collapse in one terrible moment? No. No! But there comes a time when its people no longer believe in it. Then, then does an empire begin to die. Fathers of Rome, I have lived under four great emperors: Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, Marcus Aurelius. And during all those years our empire grew. Changed. The law of life is grow or die. And you, the senators, are the heart of Rome. It is through you that the people speak. Speak up! Let the world hear you! Let the world ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Paramount logo did not appear on American prints. See more »

Alternate Versions

The film was cut a number of times, from 187 minutes to 185 to 165 to 158. The very first scene to go was one between Commodus and Livius in the middle of their drinking session on arriving at the German fort. As they go upstairs to pick out two of the hostage German women, Commodus explains that he is on the horns of not a dilemma by a trilemma - if there are gods, they have decided what he will do so it doesn't matter whether he is good or bad; if there are no gods, then it simply doesn't matter if he leads a good or a bad life; and if he himself is a god, then he gets to decide what is good or bad. That is why, if you listen carefully, you can hear the gods laughing... The omission of this scene explains that incredibly abrupt cut from them going upstairs to Commodus trying to force a drink on the German girl. There are a number of cuts in the other versions, most notably the second scene with Marcus Aurelius and Lucilla; most of Timonides' big speech to the Senate about accepting the barbarians into the Empire; and the scene where Livius tries to appeal to the Senate after failing to sway Commodus in the temple only for them to turn against him and arrest him. In some prints, the first scene after the intermission, of Lucilla leaving Marcus Aurelius' meditations in the temple for safekeeping is also dropped. Sadly, the only version that was ever released uncut was the Super 8mm feature release back in the early 1990s, which was taken from the original 16mm neg that was struck before any of the cuts were made but which was prohibitively expensive. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in The Muppets Go to the Movies (1981) See more »

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User Reviews

 
High Drama
18 December 2000 | by kitticat-2See all my reviews

It's particularly interesting to compare this movie with Gladiator (2000), as both take the same historical event as a starting point. While the fight scenes are more exciting in Gladiator, and while Gladiator is probably the superior film overall, this film does have three distinct advantages.

First of all, the armies and crowds are better here - it's real people and not computer generated icons. Some of the marching scenes were a bit lengthy for my tastes, but the soldiers, the horses, the armor, the swords and spears, all of it, were very authentic and impressive. Second, as the armies look more realistic, so do the sets. We do not see the coliseum in this film, but we do see the palaces, pools, forts and throne rooms. Very exciting. Third, and perhaps most importantly, this film has superior acting. Christopher Plummer is probably the best thing here - his Commodus is at once more dastardly and more likeable than that of Gladiator; again, this means more realistic. James Mason is also in top form, here; for once, he does not play a slippery philanderer.

There is something flawed about this film that I can't quite put my finger on. It does not reach the heights of other 50s and 60s epics such as The Ten Commandments or Ben-Hur. Still, it is a dramatic and at times moving film. It does convey the gravity (some might say tragedy) of the Empire's fall and the pax romana that never was.


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