The trend is Hollywood to make sequels to successful
pictures isn't a recent invention, no matter how much the press (and
reviewer) may complain about it. The
eminently sensible practice dates back to the silent era and to books
that. So it should come as no surprise
that after 20th Century Fox's CinemaScope Biblical epic The Robe, which did well at the box
office and was nominated for seven Academy Awards (it would win three),
has a sequel. Also filmed in CinemaScope, Demetrius and the Gladiators offers more
action (both in the arena and in the bedroom) than its inspiration did,
an exciting film for its time. Now the
epic gets the Blu-ray treatment from Twilight Time and it's sure to
Picking up where The
Robe (a film about the Roman Centurion who won Jesus' robe as he
crucified) ended, this movie follows freed slave Demetrius (Victor
is entrusted with giving holy robe to the disciple Peter.
Unfortunately the Emperor Caligula (Jay
Robinson) has heard that the relic has miraculous powers and wants it
himself. When Demetrius refuses to
reveal the robe's location he's shipped off to gladiator school.
Being a Christian, Demetrius refuses to fight other men in
the arena but has a crisis of faith when his love, Lucia (Debra Paget),
killed even though he prayed to God to keep her safe.
Then it's all-out carnage in the coliseum as
Demetrius takes on lions, gladiators, and anything else that they can
him. He also manages to catch the eye of Senator Claudius' wife,
(Susan Hayward), who takes shine to the buff slave.
Demetrius is soon climbing the ranks and eventually
becomes noticed by the emperor himself, who asks him to renounce
he readily does and is freed. Will the
fighter win his freedom only to lose his eternal soul?
The movie was made in 1950's America, what do
One of the striking things about this sequel is that it's
quite different in tone than the original.
This story, while still religious, jettisons a lot of the
replaces it with sex and violence, almost as if they were daring
complain about it, since it is about the virtues of being a Christian
the producers would have argued). While
this movie is tame compared to what you can see on television today, in
the arena fights were undoubtedly violent and the bedroom sequences
Victor Mature does a good job in the lead role. He's
attractive and fit, but more importantly
he brings a sense of dignity to the role. If
anything he's a bit too restrained in some
of his scenes, but that hat works well in context.
The same can't be said for Jay Robinson who
takes every chance he gets to chew the scenery playing the mad emperor. I actually enjoyed the over-the-top
things were always interesting when he was on the screen.
The best way to think of this film is to imagine an Italian
swords-and-sandals flick but without the goofiness, a decent budget,
and a cast
of A-list characters. It's a serious
film, but one that has a lot of fun.
The movie comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 English audio
track that sounds superb. It's easy to
tell that this was one of the first films to be released with
audio (to compete with that new threat to theaters:
television) as the sound engineers were
having a great time playing with their new toy.
There is a lot of directionality in the soundtrack with voices
effects coming from one side of the room or even from one discrete
channel. Even with the age of the
production the disc sounds very good with a nice amount of range and no
hiss or noise that can plague the audio from movies this old.
Twilight Time's transfer looks very good. The
movie was filmed in CinemaScope and the
2.55:1 ratio is preserved and the 1080p AVC encoded disc brings the
life. That's not to say the picture is
perfect. The movie was made in 1954 and
the print does have some dirt here and there.
The colors aren't as vibrant as they could be and they have a
brown tint throughout. The level of
detail isn't as great as on some HD discs, though it is leaps and
than the DVD that was released around a decade ago.
Overall it's a nice looking disc with some
The disc includes only the barest of extras: an
isolated music score and the original
While Demetrius and
the Gladiators doesn't have the gravitas of its prequel, The Robe, but it makes up for it with
more sex and violence. It's an enjoyable
and exciting film that's well worth checking out. Recommended.