Susan Hayward, Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Debra Paget, and Michael Rennie in Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)


(director/writer: Delmer Daves; screenwriter: Philip Dunne; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editors: Dorothy Spencer/Robert Fritch; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Victor Mature (Demetrius), Susan Hayward (Messalina), Michael Rennie (Peter), Debra Paget (Lucia), Anne Bancroft (Paula), Jay Robinson (Caligula), Barry Jones (Claudius), Richard Egan (Dardanius), Ernest Borghino (Strabo), William Marshall (Glycon, Ethiopian slave); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frank Ross; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1954)

It’s hokum, but passes for good Hollywood entertainment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sequel to the box-office hit The Robe (1953). The story picks up at the point where The Robe left off. It’s based on Lloyd C. Douglas’s characters created for The Robe, from his novel. In this version, it’s the venal Caligula (Jay Robinson) who is after the garment. Delmer Daves (“Jubal”/”An Affair to Remember”/”Rome Adventure”) brings a welcome joy to this absurd film, with some good gladiator jousts and good court intrigue among the effeminate tyrant madman emperor Caligula, the emperor’s probing uncle Claudius (Barry Jones), and Claudius’s wicked wily wife Messalina (Susan Hayworth). Writer Philip Dunne provides a spirited script, that centers around the trial of a man keeping the faith though tempted by the hedonism of pagan Rome and the beauty of the married amoral Messalina. While the muscular Victor Mature is convincing as the freed Christian Greek slave Demetrius, who hides the holy robe of Christ after the crucifixion. Demetrius in battles in the Roman arena faces 3 tigers and then faces 5 Roman gladiators in a fight until death, His mental battle is in keeping the faith.

The epic is filmed in delicious CinemaScope. It’s always lively. More of an emphasis is placed on the brutality of the times than religion. It’s hokum, but passes for good Hollywood entertainment.