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Posted October 1, 2010
Static Acting, Bad Sets, A Predictable Plot
Fictional story of a Roman centurion (Richard Burton) who becomes haunted with guilt after witnessing Jesus' crucifixion and winning his robe in a game. He thinks the robe is cursed but, before he can destroy it, the robe is stolen by his Greek slave (Victor Mature.) He converts while in pursuit of his slave but is treated as a madman by his pagan friends and superiors when he returns. His life love (Jean Simmons) saves him from the harsh reprimands of Tiberius and Caligula. Other than Richard Burton and Jean Simmons, the acting is horribly wooden. The plot is being so predictable from the onset it makes one wonder why, other than its appeal to Christian believers, the film has any merit to begin with. The script is saturated with bad dialogue and cliches. The only real merit to the film is as a historical footnote in film technology: it was the first movie to be done in cinemascope. As the saying goes though, 'That's history!' The technology is as antiquated to film as emperors are to modern politics. The norms represented in the film are so typical of the conservative Eisenhower period that it's just plain horrible to watch if not laughable in the context of a period film such as this. The character of Caligula is played as a retarded imbecil who couldn't find his way out of his own house. The real Caligula was a sexually depraved psychopath, not a retarded nit-wit as played in the movie. Tiberius is portrayed as a stern but friendly paternal figure when he was actually a cruel paranoiac pedophile living a secluded life of perversion on his island of Capri with boys and girls to suit his pleasure. This is a good movie for very young children who attend Sunday school and who aren't too demanding as to a historical film's artistic qualities or factual integrity. For mature viewers who demand more from a period film on antiquity, whether it's Biblical in theme or not, this movie is hardly a crowning achievement in cinema.
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