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One of the best Biblical epics of all time, based on a best-selling novel by Lloyd C. Douglas. It tells the story of a Roman, played by Burton, who was in charge of the Crucifixion of Christ and who later is converted to Christianity. The first movie to be filmed in CinemaScope.
Four Academy Award Nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor--Richard Burton. Academy Awards: Best (Color) Costume Design, Best (Color) Art Direction-Set Decoration.
For more about The Robe and the The Robe Blu-ray release, see the The Robe Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 4, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie, Jay Robinson, Dean Jagger
Director: Henry Koster
» See full cast & crew
The Robe Blu-ray Review
20th Century Fox again impresses with a classic catalogue title.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 4, 2009
It changed my life. In time it will change the world.
The Robe represents a milestone in the history of cinema, and what a film to mark such a turning point. Released in 1953, The Robe was the first film to utilize the widescreen CinemaScope format, allowing for a more epic-in-feel and certainly, then, novel experience that made for a unique and breathtaking experience. Even today, nothing says "the movies" quite like a widescreen presentation, and from Lawrence of Arabia to The Lord of the Rings, the wider format continues to allow celluloid artists to showcase sweeping vistas and a broad spectrum of information that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. With The Robe, the format is used to great effect in conveying "the greatest story ever told" in its own unique way, the film a wonderful example of classic movie making from the 1950s and offering a strong message on the power of faith and salvation.
In the time of Christ, where Roman influence is spread far and wide, those in power live a privileged life while commoners throughout the empire struggle to survive under the sword. When Caligula (Jay Robinson), nephew of Tiberius and heir to the throne, is outbid for the Greek Slave Demetrius (Victor Mature) by Roman Tribune Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton), the hot-headed Caligula sends Gallio to Jerusalem, a despised outpost that often means a death sentence for those in charge. While there, Gallio and Demetrius learn of Jesus Christ, seen by some as a Messiah and by others as a nuisance that may provoke another popular uprising. Gallio is soon summoned home thanks to the persistence and influence of Diana (Jean Simmons), a young lady that has the eye of both Caligula and Gallio, but he must first oversee the crucifixion of Christ. Gallio casts lots for and wins the robe worn by Christ that same day, and soon becomes haunted by its power. Demetrius, on the other hand, has come to accept the teachings of Christ, and abandons his master after the crucifixion. Gallio returns to Rome but is tasked with returning to Jerusalem to retrieve and destroy the robe in hopes of reclaiming his sanity. While there, Gallio will see first-hand the influence of Jesus and will be challenged to come to know peace not through the destruction of the robe but rather through faith and redemption in Christ.
The Robe is classic Hollywood, a spectacle if there ever was one, somewhat over the top at times, but always on-point, meaningful, and moving. It's a classic example of an epic, with large and ornate sets, a classic cast at their best, and the film a wonder to behold both visually and thematically. The Robe is a compelling Drama about the importance and magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice and His influence on the lives of everyone -- including both those that follow His teachings and those that crucified Him for His works. It is interesting to note that, in the brief scenes that feature Jesus traveling to Calvary and later on the cross, His face is never seen, reinforcing the importance of faith, the message, and the sacrifice. In this way, the movie seems to state that it isn't necessarily the man, but rather His works, His Words, His deeds, and His sacrifice that matter more than His physical countenance. He is depicted as being greater than flesh and blood, His body representative of the vessel through which man's sins may be forgiven. Over the course of its runtime, The Robe runs the full gamut of the impact and influence of Christ's crucifixion, where the evolution of a believer in Christ comes full circle. Where The Robe is most fascinating is in its depiction of the impact of the crucifixion on all walks of life, between the least and the greatest of man. No matter slave or king, commoner or politician, Christ sees not a title, wealth, or stature, but merely a man. In Christ's eyes, both Demetrius and Marcellus are equals, their place and influence in the world meaningless in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ uses Demetrius not as a slave but rather a missionary, a man who spreads the Word of God to even the very man that oversaw His death. The Robe tells the ultimate tale of forgiveness and redemption. It's a seminal work on the power of faith, salvation, and love, and it remains as meaningful and important as ever even today.
The Robe earned a pair of Oscar wins for its costuming and art direction, and was nominated for three more -- Best Actor, Richard Burton; Best Cinematography, Color, Leon Shamroy; and Best Picture. The Robe tells not only an important and timeless story, but it does so through lavish sets, a powerful score by Alfred Newman, and sweeping direction. Perhaps above all else, though, it is through the strengths of the cast that allows The Robe to remain a classic tale and remarkable film. Richard Burton (Becket) delivers another masterful performance as Marcellus Gallio. Perhaps the best actor never to win an Oscar, Burton once again provides a compelling performance in perhaps his most important -- and certainly most timeless -- role of his career. He plays the part with such gusto and verve as to sell the worldly-obsessed character he initially portrays wonderfully. He's a man of lofty standing that refuses to step aside even in the name of his own earthly masters, his stubbornness costing him his position and stature in the Roman Empire, demoted in all but title when he is sent to Jerusalem. It is his experiences there that once again lead him to question the authority of his earthly masters, this time not for his own ambitions and self-interest but in the name of Jesus Christ, a Man he has come to know, after sentencing Him to death, as his Savior and Redeemer. Burton handles both ends of the spectrum -- the self-centered, egotistical, and nonchalant Roman Tribune and the humble servant of Christ -- masterfully. Victor Mature plays the most moving character in the film, the slave-turned-Christian who foregoes his earthly duties as a mere slave to serve as an example of a Christ-centric life. Mature's performance is, in every scene, moving and confident, his effort selling the transformation and humble manner in which he serves Christ and spreads the Good News, particularly to his former earthly master. Finally, Jay Robinson's portrayal of Caligula is over-the-top and wholly delicious. He's everything Gallio was before his transformation -- self-centered, overconfident, and trusting in only his earthly titles and gains. Robinson lends an almost freakish countenance to the part, playing Caligula as a man that may very well be convinced by the power of Gallio's newfound steadfastness in Christ, but too proud and to fearful to acknowledge it. Robinson steals the show in the film's climax with a performance that is both powerful and frightening.
The Robe Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Robe dazzles on Blu-ray with its masterful 1080p transfer framed at 2.55:1. This is another high-quality classic catalogue release from Fox, and rarely does the transfer fail to impress. Colors are astounding and are the highlight of the image. The shade of dark red that marks the color of the Roman soldier's uniforms in particular stands out, but the many colors of the flowing and wonderfully adorned garments worn by both Roman royalty and the populace of Jerusalem sparkle. The color stands out particularly well against the earthen tones of the sandy floora and the numerous gray façades of various buildings. Fine detail, too, is generally exceptional. The disc reveals textures and fine lines in clothing, armor, weaponry, and the adornments of the luxurious Roman palaces. Some scenes are noticeably soft, lacking in clarity, sharpness, and detail, but such scenes are the exception to the rule. There are also a few instances of dramatic shifts in color one frame to another, but again, such is the exception to the rule. Generally, The Robe looks marvelous on Blu-ray.
The Robe Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Robe comes to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround sound audio track. The primary blemish here is an off-kilter dialogue exchange early in the movie between Gallio and Diana. The audio doesn't seem to quite sync up with the image, and is also unnaturally placed in the extreme front right and left speakers. It's a disconcerting moment, but afterwards there are no instances where the track fails to impress. Otherwise, dialogue is good, strong and accurate. Music is impressive; Alfred Newman's score finds itself mostly centered in the middle with some support off to the front right and left sides. It's clear and accurate; the highs seem, at times, more pronounced than the midrange, with a rather consistent strong level of lows. The storm that follows Christ's crucifixion offers a good presence across the front, a booming, powerful sound that fills the soundstage but enjoys little in the way of rear-channel support. Indeed, The Robe is rather light in surround speaker usage, but not to the detriment of the presentation. While not as striking as the video, The Robe sounds sufficiently good on Blu-ray.
The Robe Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Robe debuts on Blu-ray with plenty of bonus materials. First is a commentary track with Film Composer David Newman and Film Historians Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman. This quartet enjoys a fine rapport, covering a broad spectrum of topics, but talk of Alfred Newman and his work dominates the track. Aficionados of movie music history will enjoy this track a good deal. The Music of 'The Robe:' Alfred Newman's Score is an isolated audio track where dialogue and sound effects are removed, allowing listeners to enjoy the famed score alone. The track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Introduction by Martin Scorsese (1080p, 1:20) features the director briefly recounting the CinemaScope process and the restoration the film underwent. Next is The Making of 'The Robe' (1080p, 31:23), a fascinating and in-depth piece that recounts the story-behind-the-story, beginning by looking at the transition of book-to-film, the property's changing hands between RKO and 20th Century Fox, the many names attached to it, the era of Hollywood blacklisting, the religious makeup of the cast and crew, the performances of the cast, the sequel, and more.
The CinemaScope Story (1080p, 18:39) looks at the CinemaScope technique and how it helped save Hollywood from the brink of insignificance due to the influx of television. From Scripture to Script: The Bible and Hollywood (1080p, 24:39) looks at the influence of the Bible on Hollywood and the staying power of Scripture-as-theme in film. Audio Interview With Screenwriter Philip Dunne (1969) (1080p, 22:23) features the writer recounting the importance of The Robe and its place in cinema history. 'The Robe' Times Two: A Comparison of Widescreen and Standard Versions is a BonusView (Blu-ray profile 1.1) supplement that features an examination of the differences between the two versions of The Robe, differences that span more than the aspect ratio of the film. Interview clips and behind-the-scenes images set the stage for the many visual comparisons between the two versions via a picture-in-picture window. The best piece on the disc and one of the better features yet on Blu-ray, it allows for a fascinating study in film history and a look at how varied processes and takes result in sometimes radically differing tones between two versions. Lastly, Advertising 'The Robe' rounds out the special features. Included are Vintage Celebrity Introductions (480p, 1:35), five segments from Fox Movietone News, a pair of theatrical trailers (480p, 2:04 & 2:30), an interactive pressbook, a poster gallery, lobby cards, and publicity stills.
The Robe Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Robe remains a milestone in the history of cinema both for its technological achievements as well as its merit and importance as a story that recounts the influence of Jesus Christ on all mankind, from the most humble of servants to the greatest of leaders. Though the widescreen process is seemingly taken for granted today, and even loathed by some for its appearance on smaller television sets, the process, properly enjoyed, leaves a lasting impression for its scope and grandeur, allowing for filmmakers to compose films with information both near and far, filling a moviegoer's field of vision with sheer movie magic. Thematically, The Robe is a moving and compelling spectacle of the power of love, hope, faith, and redemption at the time of Christ's death. The film is highlighted by a series of classic, standout performances from its primary cast and lavish set designs. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of The Robe is befitting the thematic power and artistic significance of the film. The disc boasts a gorgeous high definition transfer, a solid lossless soundtrack, and plenty of bonus materials. Like their recent release of South Pacific, Fox has once again proven they lead the pack in terms of bringing their library of classic films to glorious new life on Blu-ray. The Robe comes highly recommended.
The Robe: Other Editions
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The Robe Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - March 17th - March 17, 2009
Films which fit into the "romantic comedy" genre typically favor one quality or the other. They are either romantic films with comedic highlights, or conversely, comedies with a romantic story. It is a rare film, such as 'The Princess Bride' that can gently walk ...
• The Robe Gets Detailed - December 22, 2008
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'The Robe', which is due to hit store shelves on March 17th, day-and-date with the DVD re-release. Coming on a BD-50, video will be presented ...
• The Robe Coming to Blu-ray - December 16, 2008
In an early announcement to retailers, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the 1953 film 'The Robe' to Blu-ray on March 17th. As the first film shot in CinemaScope, it has significant historic importance. Video will be presented ...
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