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Movie Review - The Robe with Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, and Victor Mature (1953)

By Edited Nov 22, 2016 1 2

Background

This classic film was the first movie to use the widescreen process known as Cinemascope.  It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Lloyd C. Douglas and published in 1942.  “The Robe” won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the Drama category in 1953.  The film also won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and rightfully so.  The costumes were exquisite and were shown at their best by the talented cast members who were gathered together to produce this epic motion picture.

                                                            

Jesus Christ by Heinrich Hofmann

                                             Portrait of Jesus Christ by Heinrich Hoffman                                                                                 Wikimedia  {{PD}}                        

Introduction

The action takes place approximately in the years 32-38 A.D.  The first scenes depict a slave market in Rome where Caligula, the future Emperor, had come to buy gladiators for his court.  He was incensed when Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton), a Roman military tribune and the son of a Roman Senator, bid against Caligula (Jay Robinson) to purchase a Greek slave named Demetrius (Victor Mature).  Marcellus paid 3000 pieces of gold for Demetrius.  Caligula was so angry that he ordered Marcellus to be transferred to Jerusalem.

The Tribune and Diana Meet

At the slave market, the Tribune noticed Diana (Jean Simmons) who came up to him and told him that he had promised to marry her.  He was startled until she reminded him that they were children together 12 years ago, and she had loved him ever since.  When her father died, she became the ward of Emperor Tiberius’ wife.

                                                       

Richard Burton

                                                          Richard Burton - Wikimedia

Before leaving for Jerusalem, Marcellus’ father, Senator Gallio (Torin Thatcher), told his son “Caligula hopes to give you your death sentence.”  The Senator advised him to sleep always with his sword at his side, and never to drink in public.

Diana came to her childhood friend before he left also.  She told him that Caligula had treated him unjustly.  She said “I found you again and I don’t want to lose you.  I fell in love with you long ago.”  Marcellus told Diana to make Emperor Tiberius promise not to give her to Caligula, who wanted her.  He would come back to her.

Marcellus and Demetrius go to Jerusalem

Demetrius accompanied Marcellus to Jerusalem after Marcellus informed him that he would be his personal attendant.  They rode together into Jerusalem on the same day that Jesus entered the city on what is now known as Palm Sunday.  As they watched along with the crowds following Jesus, Demetrius said “He looked into my eyes.  I think he wants me to follow him.”

Later that week, Demetrius went looking for Jesus, the carpenter from Jerusalem.  He was told that Jesus had been sent to Pilate, betrayed by one of his disciples.  The man told Demetrius “Tell his friends not to doubt; tell them to keep their faith.”  When Demetrius asked him his name, he said “My name is Judas.”

                                                        

Jean Simmons

                                                             Jean Simmons - Wikimedia

Marcellus Receives His Assignment

Demetrius went back to Marcellus and said “Wake up, Tribune.  Pilate, the governor, wants to see you.  He does not like to be kept waiting.”  Pilate had orders from the Emperor that three criminals were to be executed that day.  One was a fanatic with a big following.  Marcellus was to take charge of the unit of Roman soldiers that would crucify Jesus.

Demetrius was in the crowd as Jesus walked by carrying his cross.  He was being beaten by a soldier when he fell to the ground.  Demetrius went up and tried to stop the soldier and received a beating also.

Marcellus Gambles for Jesus’ Robe

Jesus’ robe was lying on the ground.  It is told that the robe was seamless and was made for him by his mother Mary.  The assigned soldiers, including Marcellus, decided to throw the dice to see who would take home the robe.  Marcellus won the robe and was told it was a great souvenir of the first crucifixion he had overseen.

A great storm came up.  The crowd quickly dispersed.  They said “He was indeed the son of God.  His judgment is upon us.”

                                                           

Victor Mature

                                                              Victor Mature - Wikimedia

Marcellus Fears the Robe

Demetrius had the robe, and when the rains came, Marcellus told him to throw the robe around him.  A bolt of lightning struck.  In fear, he threw it back to Demetrius, who had seen enough.  He cursed at Marcellus and damned the Roman Empire and ran away, taking the robe with him.  Marcellus had nightmares about the robe.  He went to visit Diana and told her that she was his only link to sanity.  He felt that he was going mad.

Marcellus is Commissioned by Emperor Tiberius

A message arrived from Emperor Tiberius.  He summoned Marcellus.  After hearing about the lost robe that had bewitched Marcellus, Tiberius commissioned him to find and destroy the robe and to get a list of the names of the followers of Jesus.

Marcellus located Demetrius and told him to destroy the robe.  Demetrius tried to give the robe to Marcellus but he was terrified to touch it.  When the robe touched him accidentally, he was freed from his madness and guilt, and became of follower of Jesus.

A Sword Fight

An army of Caligula’s soldiers, led by Paulus (Jeff Morrow), came after Marcellus and Demetrius.  Marcellus and Paulus engaged in an exciting sword fight (a highlight of the film), and Marcellus knocked Paulus’ sword to the ground.  Rather than killing him, Marcellus threw his sword into a tree.  Paulus was embarrassed by his defeat and ordered his men to leave.

Marcellus visited three provinces and many villages in search of Peter.  He learned of healing of a young boy named Jonathan and a young woman named Miriam whom Jesus had cured of their illnesses.

                                                                

Michael Rennie

                                                                Michael Rennie - Wikimedia

Marcellus Becomes a Follower of Jesus

Marcellus was able to find the Big Fisherman, Peter, who invited him to join the followers of Jesus.  Marcellus admitted that he, as the officer in charge, was responsible for the death of Jesus.  Peter assured him that Jesus had forgiven him by dying on the cross for all of us.  Marcellus and Demetrius joined Peter and Jesus’ followers.

Caligula informed Diana that Marcellus was a traitor to Rome by becoming a Christian.  He had captured Demetrius who was being held in a torture chamber.  Diana convinced a slave from the Gallio household to take her to Marcellus.  She aided Marcellus in his rescue of Demetrius, who was taken to Senator Gallio’s home.  Demetrius gave the robe to Diana for safekeeping.

Meanwhile, Emperor Tiberius died and Caligula became the Emperor.  He ordered that Marcellus should stand trial for his betrayal.  Marcellus declared that he was, indeed, a Christian, but stated that the Christians were not plotting against Rome.  Diane declared that she was a Christian just like Marcellus, whom she considered to be her husband.  She told Caligula that he was an insane monster.  Caligula ordered Diana to die with Marcellus.  As they were being taken away, Diana gave the robe to the Senator’s slave with instructions to bring it to the Big Fisherman.

                                               

The Crucifixion

                                                          The Crucifixion - Wikimedia

“The Robe” is one of the biggest classics of all time.  A sequel was made entitled “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” which did not achieve the same success as its prequel.

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The Robe
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Comments

Jul 15, 2016 8:44pm
HLesley
I read the book when I was a teenager and loved it, but never saw the movie. BTW did you notice that some of the music in the movie trailer sounded like the "Star Wars" theme?
Jul 18, 2016 9:56pm
kellapat
I just listened, and you are right!
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Bibliography

  1. "The Robe." IMDb. 15/07/2016. 15/07/2016 <Web >

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