Historically important as the first CinemaScope feature film, 20th Century-Fox's The Robe is fine dramatic entertainment in its own right. Based on the best-selling novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, the film stars Richard Burton as the wastrelly Roman tribune who is assigned by a weary Pontius Pilate (Richard Boone, who spends the whole of his single scene washing his hands) to supervise the crucifixion of Christ. After the Seven Last Words, the jaded Burton wins Christ's robe in a dice game. Gradually, the mystical influence of the holy garment transforms Burton from a roistering cynic into a True Believer--at the cost of his own life, which he willingly gives up in the service of his Lord. Also starring in The Robe are Jean Simmons as Burton's pious childhood sweetheart, Victor Mature as his Christian-convert slave Demetrius (an excellent performance--in fact, Mature is more believable than Burton!), Michael Rennie as the disciple Peter, and Jay Robinson as the raving Emperor Caligula. Mature, Rennie and Robinson would appear in the 1954 sequel to The Robe, the hurriedly assembled Demetrius and the Gladiators. Watch and listen for the unbilled contributions of Michael Ansara as Judas and Cameron Mitchell as the voice of Jesus. The film won three Academy Awards, and a special Oscar bestowed upon Fox for the development of CinemaScope. For many years, the TV prints of the Robe were struck from the "flat," standard-ratio version shot simultaneously with the widescreen version. Only recently has the CinemaScope The Robe been made available to cable TV (shown in "letterbox" format to allow home viewers the full picture).
by Hal Erickson synopsis