With the many great Biblical releases during this time, “Demetrius and the Gladiator” was expected to be the awe inspiring sequel to “The Robe”, but fell a little short. Not disappointing mind you, but falling short of the ‘wow’ factor expected when you match it to “The Robe” and other movies that either led in or followed.
“Demetrius and the Gladiator,” of 1954, begins with a scene from “The Robe” with the robe worn by “Jesus” being handed off to a servant with instructions to give it to the disciple Peter. Peter who is preparing for a long journey, hands the robe to Demetrius. Demetrius places it in a safe location in an attempt to hide if from the Romans.
Caligula, Emperor of Rome, has less than meaningful interest in the robe. He believes the robe will bring him immortality and magical powers. For his own self servicing purposes, he wants the robe and orders his Roman soldiers to find it at all expense.
When Demetrius refuses to disclose the whereabouts, he is accosted and assaults one of the soldiers. As punishment, he is placed in a Roman jail later to be sentenced to the arena. There he has to battle gladiators along with tigers. While battling, he catches the eye of Messalina played by Susan Hayward. During one of the attacks Demetrius is so badly hurt, he requires medical attention which Messalina oversees. After giving instructions as to how to provide care to Demetrius, She begins taking more romantic interest in him.
Later, Demetrius’s love interest Lucia, played by Debra Paget, is sought out by one of the Roman females interested in knowing the life Demetrius lived prior to the cathedral. Seeing Lucia, she is convinced to help her get into the arena to see Demetrius. While observing the meeting between Demetrius and Lucia, Messelina becomes jealous and demands they be separated. When this occurs, Lucia is then assaulted by one of the other gladiators. Dardanius played by Richard Egan, along with a few of his friends cause her to begin crying out to Demetrius for help. Hearing this but with no means of escaping the enclosed area he is in, he cries out to God to help her.
Suddenly, as a result of the assault, it appears Dardanius has killed Lucia which causes Demetrius to desire revenge. He looks at the men responsible with vengeance in his eyes. The next scene shows the men preparing for the arena battle. It is then when Demetrius takes the sword and prepares to battle the men responsible for what he thinks is Lucia death.
Demetrius kills each; one by one. When over, he is then freed from his chains, granted freedom from jail and sent into the arms of Massalina. After spending time in sin with her, he is then ordered to find the robe. When searching, he approaches peter and demands the robe from him. Peter sends him to the area here he can find the robe. He then discovers Lucia who never was dead, but had been saved and sent into a coma like state by God at the moment Demetrius prayed she be helped. When realizing this, Demetrius faith is restored.
A beautiful Biblical epic indeed. It is one to see. The story restores faith in our Savior and if you still have faith, it just strengthens it. The cast is good. However, at times, during a few scenes some overplay their roles a bit, but all in all, the movie is entertaining.
Two character performances are noteworthy in “Demetrius and the Gladiator.” Michael Rennie who plays the disciple Peter and Peter Marshall who plays gladiator Glycon master the roles. When watching the movie, take note of their performances. They are exceptional. The most believable of the movie.
Victor Mature ************* Demetrius
Susan Hayward ************* Messalina
Michael Rennie ************* Peter
Jay Robinson ************* Caligula
William Marshall ************* Glycon
Ernest Borgnine ************* Strabo
Richard Egan ************ Dardanius