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A Greek slave who keeps Christ's robe after the crucifixion is sentenced to be one Caligula's gladiators.
After the death of Jesus Christ, Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio, who converted to Christianity after participating in Christ's crucifixion, is sentenced to death by the mad Emperor Caligula for refusing to renounce his faith. Marcellus' beloved, Diana, accompanies him as he walks toward the arena, and just before they leave the palace, she gives the robe worn by Christ to Marcellus' devoted servant, Marcipor. That night, at the palace, Caligula questions his uncle, the scholarly Claudius, about Christianity, and whether Marcellus and Diana will live forever, as their Messiah promised. Claudius' beautiful, younger wife Messalina, whose ambition and infidelities are well-known throughout Rome, tells Caligula about the robe and encourages his belief that it is a magic talisman capable of protecting him from death. The next day, Marcipor gives the robe to one of Christ's disciples, Peter, "The Big Fisherman," and Peter attempts to comfort the Greek Demetrius, Marcellus' former slave and good friend. Peter decides to travel and leaves the robe with Demetrius, and later, Demetrius visits his friend Kaeso in the run-down section of Rome, which is primarily inhabited by Christians. Kaeso's innocent daughter Lucia is awestruck by the robe and also by Demetrius, with whom she is infatuated. Caligula's Praetorian Guards arrive, offering a reward for the robe, and Demetrius is able to hide it in Kaeso's rooms, although he then fights with the soldiers over their rough treatment of Lucia. Demetrius is tried for assaulting a Praetorian guard, and because he cannot prove that Marcellus freed him, he is sentenced to the arena. Demetrius is taken to the gladiator school run by Strabo, who tells the newcomers that if they fight hard, they can win their liberty, then introduces them to the gladiators, including the arrogant Dardanius and Glycon, a Nubian. Claudius, who owns Strabo's school, visits with Messalina, and orders Strabo to arrange a good show the following day, which is Caligula's birthday. While they are there, Demetrius makes an unsuccessful escape attempt, and when questioned about his motives, explains that as a Christian, he cannot kill. The lascivious Messalina, always eager to manipulate men, insists that Strabo force Demetrius to fight. That night, Messalina provides the gladiators with food and entertainment, and watches as Dardanius taunts Demetrius, who refuses to fight back. Glycon, who admires Demetrius for adhering to his principles, strikes Dardanius down, and Messalina orders Strabo to pit Glycon and Demetrius against each other in the arena. The next day, Glycon tells Demetrius to pretend to fight, and if they entertain the crowd well enough, they might be allowed to live. The crowd boos their mock fighting, however, and when Glycon attacks Demetrius for real, Demetrius easily disarms him. Demetrius refuses to follow Caligula's orders to kill his new friend, and although Caligula frees Glycon, he orders Demetrius to face three fierce tigers. Though wounded, Demetrius succeeds in slaying the beasts, and later, Messalina oversees Demetrius' recovery. After Demetrius recuperates, Messalina decides to make him her personal bodyguard until he can return to the arena, although Claudius, weary of his wife's adulteries, warns her not to break the Christian's spirit. Later, Messalina's attempt to seduce Demetrius is interrupted by a summons from Caligula, who accuses her of conspiring to assassinate him. Messalina's quick wits save her, although she admits to Demetrius that she is guilty, and rails against being a woman in a world ruled by crazed or weak men. Frustrated when Demetrius again rejects her, Messalina sends him back to Strabo. Meanwhile, Paula, one of the courtesans who entertains the gladiators, finds Kaeso and Lucia and tells them of Demetrius' circumstances. Lucia begs Paula to take her to Demetrius, and although Paula is reluctant to involve the young woman, she takes her to a party that night at the gladiator school. Lucia is thrilled to be reunited with Demetrius, but when the jealous Messalina sees them together, she orders that Demetrius not fight the following day, and therefore not be allowed entertainment that night. While Demetrius is caged, Dardanius and his companions attack Lucia, and Demetrius' prayers for her safety apparently go unaswered. Believing Lucia to be dead, Demetrius storms into the arena the following day and kills Dardanius and his men, and the prefect Cassius Chaerea asks Caligula to appoint Demetrius to the guards. After Demetrius renounces his faith in God, Caligula agrees, and soon Demetrius has joined the Praetorians and become Messalina's lover. At Messalina's villa, Demetrius and his lover enjoy their debauched life, much to the dismay of Glycon, who has secretly contacted Peter and become a Christian. Peter visits Demetrius and asks him to return to his former life, but Demetrius, bitter about the deaths of Marcellus and Lucia, rejects him. Later, all of Rome is in turmoil due to food shortages and taxes imposed by Caligula. Infuriated, Caligula threatens to crucify the guards if they do not protect him, although Claudius warns him that his power depends on their good will. Messalina then tells Caligula that Peter, who they believe has the robe, is in Rome, and Caligula orders his chief guard, Macro, to go with Demetrius to find the garment. Demetrius accompanies the guards to the Christian section of Rome, and there, meeting Peter, tells him to return the robe before the soldiers destroy Kaeso's home. Once inside, however, Demetrius is stunned to see that Lucia is alive, although she is in a coma and will not let go of the robe, to which she clings. Peter tells him that if he wants the robe, he must pray for it, and as he lays his hands upon the cloth, Demetrius remembers the day he kneeled before Christ as he was being crucified. Demetrius prays for forgiveness, and the now-conscious Lucia comforts him. Peter instructs Demetrius to take the robe to Caligula, and when the mad ruler receives the garment, he orders a prisoner to be killed, then dons the robe and orders him to arise. The prisoner remains prone, however, and Caligula storms back to the throne room, where Demetrius castigates him for defiling his master's robe. As Glycon picks up the robe, Caligula orders Macro to kill Demetrius in the arena. Demetrius refuses to fight, however, and the Praetorian Guards demand that he be spared. When Caligula threatens them, the guards revolt, killing him and Macro, then crowning Claudius as Caesar in the throne room. Claudius gestures for Messalina to join him, and the reformed Messalina vows to become a good wife. Claudius allows Demetrius and Glycon to go free, and, with the robe in hand, they meet Peter outside.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 16 Jun 1954; New York opening: 18 Jun 1954|
|Release Date:||1954||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Stereo||Production Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||99 or 101||Country:||United States|
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Demetrius and the Gladiators, 1954
Jay Walker 2011-11-15
5 stars. Only caught the second half--it made such an impression on me, I looked it up. The story line of Demetrius' personal struggle with his faith...