Demetrius and the Gladiators

Demetrius and the Gladiators

5.0 5
Director: Delmer Daves

Cast: Delmer Daves, Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie


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The chances are that this much-underrated 1954 feature, a sequel to The Robe, would not be showing up on DVD in the winter of 2001 were it not for the Oscar nomination accorded Russell Crowe for his work in the movie Gladiator -- the giveaway is the fact that The Robe itself hasn't appeared on DVD in tandem with it, and that this disc is packagedSee more details below


The chances are that this much-underrated 1954 feature, a sequel to The Robe, would not be showing up on DVD in the winter of 2001 were it not for the Oscar nomination accorded Russell Crowe for his work in the movie Gladiator -- the giveaway is the fact that The Robe itself hasn't appeared on DVD in tandem with it, and that this disc is packaged in lettering that has the word "Gladiators" more than three times larger than the rest of the title. Whatever the reason, it's good to see this movie out on DVD, and in its CinemaScope aspect ratio, looking better than the old laserdisc release. The movie tells of the adventures of the slave Demetrius (Victor Mature) in Rome under the mad emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson, in a delightfully neurotic performance), who is hunting desperately for the robe belonging to Jesus, in the belief that it will make him immortal. As dangerous as Caligula is the decadent Messalina (Susan Hayward), and caught between them all are Claudius (Barry Jones), the Christian girl Lucia (Debra Paget), the African king-turned-gladiator Lycon (William Marshall, and Saint Peter (Michael Rennie). Sentenced to the arena for assaulting a member of the Praetorian Guard, he is trained in the gladiator school owned by Claudius and his wife Messalina, who takes a special interest in Demetrius; Anne Bancroft, in the decade before she became a respected actress, plays a prostitute engaged for the entertainment of the gladiators. The movie was far better than most sequels of its era, and today stands very nicely on its own, mostly by virtue of a brace of sincere performances and an excellent script by Philip Dunne, the writer best known for How Green Was My Valley, David and Bathsheba, and The Agony and the Ecstasy. The film-to-video transfer is quite lustrous and the color is very rich, capturing a good deal of the glow of the original Technicolor. It's curious that 20th Century Fox seemed to make more naturalistic use of the process than MGM during this period, making this film look less overpowering on a shot-by-shot basis than, say, Quo Vadis. Director Delmer Daves, whose most well-known movies were Hollywood Canteen, Dark Passage, and A Summer Place, loses no opportunity to depict characters moving amid the huge settings of imperial Rome, such as the emperor's palace; potential purchasers should be aware that the film's 2.55:1 aspect ratio makes the viewing of this movie distinctly preferable on a big-screen monitor. The only additional material, apart from a lengthy FoxVideo promo reel at the opening (which can be avoided by accessing the menu), is the original trailer, which sums up the movie nicely. The film is divided into 20 chapters that break the dramatic material down effectively.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Although it was lavishly produced and blessed with an obviously generous budget, the fun of Demetrius and the Gladiators lies in its cheesiness. There's no mistaking Demetrius for a good movie, but as an exercise in good clean camp (sword and sandals variety), it's hard to beat. Start with Victor Mature, never anyone's idea of a great actor; in a role of this sort, however, most of the acting is done by way of biceps, and by that measure, he does very well. Forget the fact that he has maybe two expressions and a sameness to his line readings. Besides, Susan Hayward and Chris Robinson are on hand to make up for Mature's dramatic dullness. Indeed, at times, it seems as if Hayward and Robinson are in a race to see who can go over the top the fastest and the farthest. (Robinson, in one of the most delightfully bizarre performances ever, wins hands down, but Hayward's sultry, bitchy performance is still a hoot.) The dialogue is just what you would expect, and the plot really exists only as an excuse for the action sequences (which are very well handled). As a sequel to The Robe, Demetrius has to wrap itself in the cloak of religion, but its heart is with its gladiators, not its depiction of the early days of Christianity -- which is fortunate, for as a historical document, Demetrius comes up very, very short.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]

Special Features

English 4.0 Surround, English Stereo, French mono; Anamorphic widescreen [aspect ratio 2.55:1]; Subtitles: English, Spanish; Theatrical trailers in English, Spanish, French, German

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Victor Mature Demetrius
Susan Hayward Messalina
Michael Rennie Peter
Debra Paget Lucia
Anne Bancroft Paula
Jay Robinson Caligula
Barry Jones Claudius
Richard Egan Dardanius
Ernest Borgnine Strabo
Charles Evans Cassius Chaerea
Everett Glass Kaeso
Jeff York Albus
Carmen de Lavallade Slave girl
John Cliff Varus
Barbara James Specialty Dancer
Selmar Jackson Senator
Fred Graham Decurion
Dayton Lummis Magistrate
George Bruggeman Actor
Richard Burton In Clip from "The Robe"
Harry Cording Actor
Karl (Killer) Davis Macro
Jack Finlay Actor
William Forrest Actor
Paul Kruger Courtier
Peter Mamakos Actor
Shepard Menken Actor
Paul Newlan Potter
Gil Perkins Actor
Dick Sands Actor
Jean Simmons In Clip from "The Robe"
Ray Spiker Actor
Paul Stader Actor
Woody Strode Gladiator
Allen Kramer Clerk
George Eldredge Chamberlain
William Marshall Glydon
Paul Richards Prisoner

Technical Credits
Delmer Daves Director
George W. Davis Art Director
Philip Dunne Screenwriter
Robert Fritch Editor
Ray Kellogg Special Effects
Milton Krasner Cinematographer
Charles LeMaire Costumes/Costume Designer
Alfred Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
Stephen Papick Choreography
Frank Ross Producer
Dorothy Spencer Editor
Franz Waxman Score Composer
Lyle Wheeler Art Director

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Scene Index

Scene Selections
0. Scene Selections
1. Main Titles [2:37]
2. Christian Belief [4:36]
3. The Robe [5:04]
4. Sentenced [4:02]
5. Entertainment [7:51]
6. In the Arena [:17]
7. Demetrius' Savior [10:00]
8. The Emperor [4:43]
9. Gladiator School [3:38]
10. A Surprise Visit [7:52]
11. Demetrius Kills [1:31]
12. The Question [1:08]
13. In the Temple [2:18]
14. Madness [:43]
15. The Fisherman [3:29]
16. News of the Robe [3:50]
17. Lucia [4:43]
18. A Test [1:21]
19. Revolt [1:34]
20. A New Emperor [4:15]


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