Fall of the Roman Empire

Fall of the Roman Empire

4.0 3
Director: Anthony Mann

Cast: Alec Guinness, Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd


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Though Fall of the Roman Empire is now infamous as the epic which destroyed the cinematic "empire" of producer Samuel Bronston, the film is actually an above-average historical drama, attempting to make sense of the political intrigues which resulted in the dissolution of the Glory That Was Rome. The film begins with wise, diplomatic emperor Marcus AureliusSee more details below


Though Fall of the Roman Empire is now infamous as the epic which destroyed the cinematic "empire" of producer Samuel Bronston, the film is actually an above-average historical drama, attempting to make sense of the political intrigues which resulted in the dissolution of the Glory That Was Rome. The film begins with wise, diplomatic emperor Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guinness) calling together the various representatives of the many nations within the Empire as a means of securing peace and prosperity for all involved. When Marcus intimates that he intends to turn over his crown to adopted son Livius (Stephen Boyd) rather than the logical successor Commodus (Christopher Plummer), he is poisoned by one of Commodus' cronies. Marcus' daughter Lucilla (Sophia Loren) tries to get Livius to claim the throne, but he wants no part of it; thus, the fate of the empire is in the incompetent hands of the preening Commodus. Despite efforts by cooler heads to save Rome from ruin, Commodus vainly declares himself a god and kills anyone who poses a threat to him. When he learns that Lucilla actually has a stronger claim to the throne than he does, Commodus condemns her to be burned at the stake. Only then does Livius intervene, slaying Commodus and promising to try to pick up the pieces of the disintegrating empire. Attempting to find a common ground between history buffs and action fans, Fall of the Roman Empire has come to be regarded as a classic. Alas, audiences in 1964 had grown weary of epics (especially after the highly touted but disappointing Cleopatra), and failed to turn out in sufficient enough numbers to justify Fall's exorbitant cost. Virtually wiped out, Samuel Bronston would not be able to return to filmmaking until 1971, and then only on a much smaller and more pinchpenny scale.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
This film does not depict the fall of the Roman Empire, only the beginning of it. And it takes three hours to do it. Like Gladiator more than three decades later, it distorts second century Roman history, making Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Sir Alec Guinness) a victim of murder instead of plague. And like Gladiator, it distorts events surrounding the death of Aurelius' son and successor, Commodus (Christopher Plummer). In real life, Commodus was strangled while taking a bath. Finally, like Gladiator, it depicts the empire as infinitely big, infinitely powerful, and infinitely magnificent. The sets and action sequences of The Fall are impressive: There are endless parades of soldiers, a beautifully reconstructed Roman Forum, and a spectacular fight between racing charioteers. Unlike the chariot race, however, most of the film plods along at a tortoise pace, first under the gloomy winter skies of the Danube region, then in the treacherous shadows of the Forum. Plummer carries the film as the loony Commodus. He knows how to sneer, defy, lurk, double-cross, and turn thumbs down on the hapless. And though we don't get to see him die in a bathtub, we do see him wield Commodus' famous sword in a fight to the death against good guy Livius (Stephen Boyd) while the latter's beloved, Lucilla (Sophia Loren), is about to be burned at the stake. Guinness is somber and wise as the aging Aurelius, showing no hint of the emperor's Christian-hating side as he attempts to prepare Rome for its future. Boyd, who also drives a lickety-split chariot in Ben-Hur, plays the altruistic Livius as noble and selfless -- and humorless. Performing ably in supporting roles are old pros such as James Mason, Mel Ferrer, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, Finlay Currie, and John Ireland. Dimitri Tiomkin won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for the fine musical score.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Miriam Collection
Region Code:

Special Features

Disc 1: Feature commentary with Bill Bronston (son of producer Samuel Bronston) and Mel Martin (biographer of Samuel Bronston); Rome in Madrid:L 1964 promotiona film; Original theatrical trailer; Filmographies; Still galleries; Disc 2: The Rise and Fall of an Epic Production: the making of the film; The Rise and Fall of an Empire: an historical look at the real Roman empire; Hollywood Vs. History: an historical Analysis; Dimitri Tiomkin: scoring the Roman empire

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Alec Guinness Marcus Aurelius
Sophia Loren Lucilla
Stephen Boyd Livius
James Mason Timonides
Christopher Plummer Commodius
Omar Sharif Sohamus
Anthony Quayle Verulus
John Ireland Ballomar
Mel Ferrer Cleander
Eric Porter Julianus
Douglas Wilmer Niger
Peter Damon Claudius
Andrew Keir Polybius
George Murcell Victorinus
Lena von Martens Helva
Gabriella Licudi Tauna
Rafael Luis Calvo Lentulus
Norman Wooland Virgilanus
Michael Gwynn Cornelius
Guy Rolfe Marius
Finlay Currie Senator
Virgilio Teixeira Actor

Technical Credits
Anthony Mann Director
Ben Barzman Screenwriter
Samuel Bronston Producer
Veniero Colasanti Costumes/Costume Designer,Production Designer,Set Decoration/Design
Will Durant Consultant/advisor
Basilio Franchina Screenwriter
Robert Krasker Cinematographer
Robert Lawrence Editor
John J. Moore Production Designer,Set Decoration/Design
Gloria Mussetta Costumes/Costume Designer
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer
Mario Van Riel Makeup
Alex C. Weldon Special Effects
Philip Yordan Screenwriter

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Fall of the Roman Empire
1. Overture [:55]
2. Main Titles [2:41]
3. Night Whispers [2:20]
4. Reunion With Lucilla [5:37]
5. The Emperors Gathering [4:27]
6. The Declaration of Peace [4:01]
7. The Heir [3:44]
8. Learning Compassion [2:43]
9. Livius and Commodus [4:06]
10. Dividing Loyalties [5:01]
11. Confession of Love [3:32]
12. Strategic Defense [6:34]
13. The Battle With Ballomar [4:22]
14. Political Marriage [3:05]
15. Two Antagonists [5:03]
16. An Assassination Plot [2:00]
17. The Emperor's Agony [5:27]
18. Real Love [3:06]
19. Last Words [:53]
20. The Funeral [4:19]
21. New Emperor Commodus [7:21]
22. Intermission [5:25]
Disc #2 -- Fall of the Roman Empire
1. The Reform [5:34]
2. Persuading Ballomar [8:07]
3. Warning Her Brother [4:10]
4. Livius's Homecoming [2:13]
5. A World Apart [1:53]
6. The Right of Roman Freedom [7:05]
7. Time For Change [5:37]
8. Returning to Rome [6:47]
9. An Unexpected Rebel [3:47]
10. Big Battle in the East [7:17]
11. A Gift From Livius [5:05]
12. Fading Peace [4:43]
13. Laughter of the Gods [2:41]
14. Praising Caesar [2:25]
15. Buying the Roman Army [6:35]
16. The Truth About the Emperor [3:48]
17. Despearte Measures [6:51]
18. Man-to-Man Combat [11:15]

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