Robe, The (1953)

The Robe (1953), directed by Henry Koster.

The Roman officer who crucified Jesus is driven mad by the memory, but then converts and faces persecution for his new faith.

This is reasonably opulent and features good color and decoration in the costumes and architecture. In older films Roman robes are plain white and the buildings are always pure white marble. I see a strong gold light shining on many scenes; is that an original part of movie, intentional or inadvertent, or has it been color graded by recent knob-twiddlers?

The devout scenes are very solemn. We find that Jesus was late to the Wedding at Cana -- and why -- and get a look at Peter's shame and redemption.

On the down side: the camera work is pretty static and features slow, ponderous movement, apart from some bits with chariots, possibly quoting the silent Ben Hur. This is the first CinemaScope release (although How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) was filmed first) and you can see "mumps" in the rare closeups. They stick to medium and long shots for most of the film.

The story is sedate, nothing like as lively as Ben Hur (1959) or even Barabbas (1961).

Richard Burton is fine when calm, but his impassioned eye-rolling madness is just embarrassing. Victor Mature is a more limited actor but actually acquits himself a bit better here.

Lovely Jean Simmons is slender and virginal. From years ago I remember a review of Jay Robinson as mad Caligula: "shrieking and mincing up a storm".

I thought it was a mistake to call Marcellus a "tribune", but now I read there were military tribunes, an entirely different position than the elected office.

Alfred Newman score. It goes oddly off-genre in the adventure music during the rescue from a dungeon.

Available on Blu-ray.