CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • U
  • Drama
  • 1953
  • 135 mins [R][S]

The Robe

Film4 The Robe

Synopsis

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

About

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: Victor Mature, Michael Rennie, Jay Robinson, Jean Simmons, Torin Thatcher, Dean Jagger, Richard Burton
  • Director: Henry Koster
  • Screen Writer: Albert Maltz, Philip Dunne
  • 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 Woman In Black 2

    The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death

    The spectral 'woman in black' feeds off the loss and trauma of Second World War evacuees in this gothic sequel from director Tom Harper (The Scouting Book For Boys)

  • Film4 Men In Black 3

    Men In Black 3

    Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to the 1960s to stop an alien from assassinating a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) and changing the course of history

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share