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The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

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 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:

The glory and grandeur that was Rome 1780 years ago are recreated as never before. All of that Rome - its eloquent stores, its swarming multitudes, its exotic scenes, the very noise of the traffic in the streets - parades before you. Assailed on all sides by barbarian hordes, and Oriental armies, Rome, like an overripe fruit, was ready to fall. 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

Adjusted for inflation, this lost a phenomenal $126m for its investors. See more »

Goofs

Although most soldiers in the ancient world wore their swords on the opposite hip from their sword arm, the Roman Legionnaires used a short sword called a gladius which they wore on their right hip. Depictions of this have led some viewers to believe that the entire Roman army was left handed. See more »

Quotes

Livius: [standing over body of Timonides] What happened, gentle Greek? Did you try to tell them there were three possibilities? Did you not know there was a fourth? This!
[picks up and throws spear away]
Lucilla: This is the way they answer to reason and now even you must see, this is the only way to answer them.
Livius: He does not seem dead to me, I can still feel his life, hear his words. Tell me what I must do in his name.
[yelling]
Livius: March the army into Rome and drown the city in blood!
Lucilla: [...]
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 »

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User Reviews

 
The Nail in the Coffin
17 October 2006 | by OttoVonBSee all my reviews

the philosopher Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guiness) summons the leaders of the Empire to the northern Frontier. he plans to announce his desire to place his power in the hands of his loyal star general (Boyd), rather than to his wild, unpredictable son Commodus (Plummer). He is killed before doing so and the Empire crumbles under Commodus.

"The Fall of the Roman Empire" was the nail in its genre's coffin. Ponderous, expensive, it bombed and put the swords'n'sandals epic in a coma for a good 34 years, until the arrival of "Gladiator", with which it shares quite a few story similarities. But where Ridley Scott's film is lean and mean, Anthony Mann's is slow, stately and overly in love with its production design. It also has undeniable weaknesses. Stephen Boyd is bland and uninteresting, Sophia Lauren is painfully bad in many scenes, and the haughty tone is often overbearing, as if the film were too important to bother with simple, human emotions (though whenever it does, it fails, as the calamitous romantic scenes prove). It never helps that the music is ghastly beyond words.

This epic does have its supporters, however, and a few very precise elements are the cause of that: the sets are indeed sumptuous, John Mason keeps his dignity and his scenes with Alec Guiness are a pleasure to watch. The hero to worship here is Christopher Plummer. Plummer can do dark and ambitious, but he is unnervingly charming and dangerous as Commodus.

So in fewer words: not a complete waste of your time. A film that could have been better with different actors as its romantic leads.


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