This sequel to the box-office smash THE ROBE picks up the story after Marcellas and Diana (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons, the stars of the first film) go to the executioner. Before dying, the two converts to Christianity give Demetrius (Mature) the robe Christ wore to the cross. After
hiding the robe, Mature is apprehended by Roman soldiers and forced into the arena as a gladiator. Though he defeats his opponents, he refuses to kill them. Messalina (Hayward), slatternly wife of Claudius (Jones), is attracted to the muscular Mature, but demonstrates her interest in him by
insisting that Mature face the towering Nubian warrior Glycon (Marshall). Marshall and Mature conspire to fake the combat, but Marshall explains that if the crowd becomes suspicious the Nubian will have to kill Mature. The feeble battle is quickly seen as a farce, and Marshall tells Mature to
defend himself, that they must fight to the death. Mature, however, deftly downs the giant but refuses to kill him. When Hayward later tries to seduce Mature, he rejects her, incurring her wrath. As a result Mature is sent back to gladiatorial school for retraining. Innocent Lucia (Paget) falls in
love with Mature, but he is denied her company. Darndanius (Egan) and four other gladiators then molest Paget, which drives Mature, who witnesses the attack, crazy with anger. Paget collapses and is pronounced dead. Mature renounces God for allowing her death, and the next day forces his way into
the arena, even though he is not scheduled to fight. He attacks Egan and quickly kills him, then another of Paget's attackers. Marshall drives the remaining three culprits into the arena, and Mature takes them all on in an incredible one-man attack, savagely destroying all three men, becoming the
greatest gladiator ever seen by Rome. Caligula (Robinson) demands that Mature renounce the Christian God and swear allegiance only to the Roman emperor. The disillusioned Mature does and is immediately made an officer of the palace guard. When Hayward boldly makes a play for Mature, the two become
lovers. Then Robinson insists that Mature track down the robe so he can test its miraculous powers. In his search Mature encounters Peter the Apostle (Rennie), who tells the gladiator that Paget is not dead but in a strange comatose state, that she has the robe. Greatly moved by the sight of
Paget, Mature begs God's forgiveness, imploring Him to restore Paget to consciousness. Suddenly she emerges from the deathlike spell, regaining her normal faculties. As a gesture of peace, Mature takes the robe to Robinson, but the egomaniacal Roman wants it only for the godlike powers he believes
it holds. Robinson takes the robe to a dungeon where a prisoner is being tortured and orders the man stabbed to death. Then, holding up the robe, Robinson commands the dead man to rise. When nothing happens, Robinson races back to the palace and returns the robe to Mature, saying it has no powers.
Enraged at Robinson's perverted use of the robe, Mature calls the emperor a lunatic and lunges at him. Robinson orders Mature back into the arena to fight for his life. However, Mature refuses to fight. Against the wishes of the crowd, Robinson orders his personal assassin, Macro (Davis), to slit
Mature's throat. But the Praetorian Guard demands that its hero, Mature, be spared. Robinson goes berserk with rage. With that a guard sails a spear into Davis before he can murder Mature, and another guard kills Robinson. The new emperor, Jones, then pardons Mature and orders the oppression of
Christians to stop. Hayward, knowing a liaison with Mature is futile, assumes her role as Jones' wife. Mature leaves the palace with Marshall and Rennie to spread the word of the Lord.
Strong on action and spectacle, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS minimizes its religious theme. Mature is convincing as the powerful gladiator, and all the supporting players are believable in their historic roles. While Jones' Claudius is considerably more kindhearted than history tells us the
emperor was, Robinson's Caligula is every inch the beast the legendary Roman is purported to have been. Robinson plays Caligula as a screaming but fey tyrant, a preposterous performance that must be seen to be believed. Rennie is appropriately saintly as Peter, Marshall gives a fine performance as
the decent Nubian warrior, Borgnine is solid as the trainer of the gladiators, and Egan gives a brief but bravura performance as the lust-consumed gladiator who earns Mature's special rage. Paget is a little too wimpy as the victimized girl and Bancroft as a sleazy courtesan is wasted.
Fast paced and beautifully photographed by Krasner, this film certainly distorts history, but it packs a stirring wallop in the gladiatorial scenes, and the sequence where Mature kills several tigers bare-handed is overwhelming. The critics didn't like this epic, condemning Hayward's overacting;
however, the script gives her little to work with. The public loved the spectacle, however, and DEMETRIUS was one of the top drawing films in 1954. What's more, it was re-released with THE ROBE in 1959 and was a big hit.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This sequel to the box-office smash THE ROBE picks up the story after Marcellas and Diana (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons, the stars of the first film) go to the executioner. Before dying, the two converts to Christianity give Demetrius (Mature) the robe… (more)