Victor Mature – Demetrius
Susan Hayward – Messalina
Jay Robinson – Caligula
Barry Jones – Claudius
Ernest Borgnine – Strabo
Debra Paget – Lucia
Anne Bancroft – Paula
Michael Rennie – Peter
Summary: This sequel to Christian martyr film “The Robe” follows Demetrius, a minor character from the previous film, who is entrusted with an iconic red robe which was worn by Jesus of Nazareth on the cross. In protecting his girlfriend Lucia, and the secret of where the robe is hidden, Demetrius is arrested for assaulting a Roman soldier and sent to a gladiator school.
There, thanks to his rebellious attitude towards killing for the entertainment of others, Demetrius comes to the attention of Caligula and Claudius, who want the secret of the robe, and Messalina, wife of Claudius, who just plain wants Demetrius. She attempts to seduce him, but he holds to his Christian values, resisting all temptation… for a while.
[many spoilers follow, the whole film is discussed in great detail]
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Sophia Loren – Lucilla
Alec Guinness – Marcus Aurelius
Stephen Boyd – Livius
Christopher Plummer – Commodus
James Mason – Timonides
Omar Sharif – King of Armenia
“I loved you, Livius, but now you have to die – that’s the kind of joke the gods love best.”
In his dying days, Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Guinness) chooses Gaius Metellus Livius (Boyd) as his successor, as he has no faith in his flighty, gladiator-loving son, Commodus. Livius wants to marry Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius, but she has to be married to the King of Armenia (Sharif) to seal a peace. After arranging the death of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus becomes emperor anyway, and his selfishness, decadence and warmongering shocks no one. Rebellious factions form up against the Emperor, tearing Rome apart from the inside, and Livius does his best to stay loyal until his conscience prevents him from doing so. The film is 188 minutes long (yes folks, over 3 hours), largely because of so many long parades, long speeches and sad brooding looks.
This cerebral Roman epic has many themes, structural and story elements in common with the later Gladiator (2000), which was also set during this era and featured an original protagonist.
Chariot Scenes: 5
Women with speaking roles: 1
Yes, there are many SPOILERS in the following post…
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This article about a decade of shitty films based on classical legends (ie failing to capitalise on the awesomeness that was Gladiator) entertained me greatly, and got me thinking. I was still a Classics postgrad when the first wave of post-Gladiator films (Troy! Alexander!) were due out, and I remember the excitement and the buzz we felt about them, looking up pre-publicity (ooh Brad Pitt, okay that’s weird, Sean Bean as Odysseus, that’s awesome, Orlando Bloom as Paris, PERFECT, omg what did they do to Colin Farrell’s hair…?) and so on.
But then the movies came out and… yes. Disappointing. Not because of a lack of production values, but because the script took them too far from the actual story. Messing with the myths, retelling them in new images, is a wonderful and perfectly authentic thing to do – my favourite Trojan story is Euripides’ Helen which posits the theory she never went to Troy but hopped off the ship in Egypt en route and spent 10 years hiding out there – but if you’re going to claim to make a movie of the Iliad (not the Trojan cycle, the ILIAD) then you’d better have a bloody good reason for letting Agamemnon and Menelaus die, and Paris live.
Some of us were only in that cinema to see Paris die, dudes.
Also, if you’re going to portray Achilles as a mighty shiny hero type instead of a whiny little psychopath, you are missing out on the interesting part of the story!
The thing that most amused me about the article was the constant search for a collective term for pre-medieval historical adventure movies. Men of Yore, Men in Skirts… really, has ‘sword and sandal’ fallen out of our cultural language? Really?
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