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.