Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • U
  • Drama
  • 1953
  • 135 mins

The Robe

Film4 The Robe


Oscar winning biblical epic, and the first ever film to be shot in CinemaScope. Roman Richard Burton kills Christ, goes insane and then converts to Christianity


Mighty in every respect, Koster's sword and sandal epic operates on a scale hitherto unseen. Ten years in the making, the film cost 4.6 million dollars, with every single cent on display.

Richard Burton is the fictional Tribune Mercellus Gallio, newly stationed in Jerusalem where, under Pilate's orders, he's responsible for nailing Christ to the cross. As the significance of his actions dawns on him he's plunged into madness ("I'm mad!") and haunted by visions of Christ's robe, the search for which brings him into contact with underground Christians and thence to conversion.

By the standards of this holy extravaganza Burton's performance is comparatively modest, giving Victor Mature plenty of room to ham it up as the slave whose Pythonesque encounter with Christ ("He's not the King. He's... I don't know!") sets Burton on the road to redemption. Jean Simmons simpers as his love interest and Koster takes care to emphasise all the most lurid aspects of the crucifixion story. Thus we get Pilate obsessively washing his hands, Caligula shrieking as he struggles to stay the right side of sanity and God venting his wrath on Rome in the form of vicious squally showers.

Koster knows how to fill the screen but his direction of the more intimate moments, particularly those between Burton and Simmons, is heavy-handed, and his assumption that audiences already know the story results in some clumsy lurches between the set pieces. However, it's his use of the then new anamorphic technology that's ensured the film's place in history. The vast crowd scenes, the horses heading straight for the camera and the unexpected precision with which Burton wields a blade are still magnificent. Burton himself would give better performances in more refined films but in style as well as size The Robe represents a king-size blueprint.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jean Simmons, Dean Jagger, Jay Robinson, Richard Burton, Torin Thatcher, Michael Rennie, Victor Mature
  • Director: Henry Koster
  • Screen Writer: Philip Dunne, Albert Maltz
  • Producer: Frank Ross
  • Photographer: Leon Shamroy
  • Composer: Alfred Newman

In a nutshell

Koster's overwhelming historical epic - and Fox Studios' new technology - changed forever the way films were made. Forty years down the line it's lost none of its power to impress. Everything, including performances, is turned up to eleven, and what it lacks in finesse it more than makes up for in sheer spectacle.

by Jon Fortgang

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Salt Of The Earth

    Brazilian documentary about the life of visionary photographer Sebastião Salgado, directed by Wim Wenders and Sebastião's son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

  • Film4


    AnnaLynne McCord stars as a teenager with an unhealthy fascination with gore and surgery.

    On Film4: 29 Oct 11:05PM

  • Film4

    Black Cinema Season on Film4

    To tie-in with the launch of the BFIs Black Star season, Film4 presents a celebration of black filmmaking talent both in front of and behind the camera.

  • Film4

    FilmFear on Film4

    This Halloween, Film4 becomes FilmFear. Join us for seven nights of petrifying premieres and classics from the crypt.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register