The Robe (1953)

20th Century Fox

Cast: Richard Burton, Jean Simmonds, Victor Mature.

Rating: G.

Run time: 136 mins..

Genre: Religious.

Verdict: Beautiful (see rating system)

The first movie released in the CinemaScope format - forerunner of today's wide-angle look - The Robe is an entertaining religious epic.

Admittedly, the pace is a little slow, but a movie of this nature needs space to tell its fictional story, which is based upon a real event - the crucifixion of Jesus..

Richard Burton plays Marcellus Gallio, a Roman centurion who is ordered to oversee the crucifixion before being allowed to return home to Rome. In a gambling game near the cross, Gallio wins wins Christ's robe - a simple garment that magically changes his life.

Torn with remorse for his actions and rejecting his old warrior status, Gallio becomes a Christian like his former Greek slave Demetrius (Victor Mature). He returns to Rome, which is under the debauched leadership of the Emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson) and saves the beautiful Diana (Jean Simmons) from his evil clutches - an action that draws Caligula's wrath.

Burton is rather wooden in the lead role and Mature steals the picture with an energetic, impassioned performance. Jay Robinson goes right over the top and succeeds in bringing the crazed Caligula vividly to life. Jean Simmonds is serene and beautiful throughout.

I hope Fox spends some money on a digital cleanup of the movie for future release - it really does need some work to show it in its true glory. The picture quality is quite good, but there are enough bits of debris to annoy me. Such a historical film deserves to look its best.

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