The Robe (1953)
“The Greatest Story of Love, Faith, and Overwhelming Spectacle!”
The Robe (1953)
Director: Henry Koster
Cast: Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature
Synopsis: A drunk and disillusioned Roman wins Jesus’ robe in a dice game after the crucifixion.
A surly Richard Burton (Alexander the Great, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf) plays Marcellus Gallio, the unfortunate tribune who oversees the crucifixion of Christ and wins his robe in a dice game. Gallio was sent to Jerusalem after crossing the mad Caligula (Jay Robinson – The Virgin Queen, Dracula) over the purchase of the slave Demetrius (Victor Mature – My Darling Clementine), who, while in Jerusalem with Gallio, becomes a convert to Christianity. Gallio, meanwhile, becomes mentally imbalanced by the enormity of his actions and becomes convinced that he has been cursed by Christ’s robe.
It’s not a bad idea for a movie – in fact as a serious character study it has massive potential. Unfortunately, The Robe was made in the 1950s and little thought is given to the physical manifestation of Gallio’s mental torture, so that the only insight we’re given is Burton’s overwrought grandstanding. Jean Simmons (Great Expectations, So Long at the Fair) fares better as Burton’s love interest, but it’s Jay Robinson – given too little screen time as the creepily insane Emperor Caligula – who merits special mention. The Robe goes on too long, but there are some powerful moments along the way. The ghostly dream image of a nail being hammered into a hand in time to the hammering of an anvil that sets the rowers’ pace on the ship on which Gallio sleeps is particularly effective.
(Reviewed 6th March 2012)