A marvelous epic melodrama, with portions that are emotionally stirring,and with two exceedingly attractive stars, this film ranks high in the"sword and sandals" genre.
This is prime-time Richard Burton, at age27, heavenly to look at and even better to listen to; his crispenunciation makes the English language shine, and though some of hisscenes are a little "over the top", he carries them off with charismaticpresence. Jean Simmons is exquisite as Diana, the woman who has lovedMarcellus (Burton) since childhood, and their screen romance has a raredepth and spark.
Other notable performances come from Victor Mature asDemetrius the slave, with a mute but moving scene at Christ's crucifixion,and Michael Rennie is grand as Peter. Jay Robinson is wonderfully rottenas the vicious Caligula.
I always like a good fight sequence, and there is a brilliantlychoreographed one between Marcellus and a centurion. It is the kind ofswordplay great Shakespearean actors have perfected, and it is a delightto watch.
Directed by Henry Koster, it has an exceptional score byAlfred Newman, and vibrant Technicolor cinematography by Leon Shamroy. Ilike the way the night scenes have a deep blue glow to them, and thecostumes are wonderful. Oscars went to Best Art Direction/Set Design(color) and Best Costume design (color). It was also nominated for BestPicture, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography (color), and was the firstfilm to be released in CinemaScope.
I saw this film many years ago, and had thought it a little silly, but wehave both aged well; I can now watch it repeatedly, and appreciate thedepictions of courage, and the beauty and humanity of it. Total runningtime is 2 hours and 13 minutes.