Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)

Genres - Epic  |   Sub-Genres - Religious Epic, Sword-and-Sandal  |   Release Date - Jun 18, 1954 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Although it was lavishly produced and blessed with an obviously generous budget, the fun of Demetrius and the Gladiators lies in its cheesiness. There's no mistaking Demetrius for a good movie, but as an exercise in good clean camp (sword and sandals variety), it's hard to beat. Start with Victor Mature, never anyone's idea of a great actor; in a role of this sort, however, most of the acting is done by way of biceps, and by that measure, he does very well. Forget the fact that he has maybe two expressions and a sameness to his line readings. Besides, Susan Hayward and Chris Robinson are on hand to make up for Mature's dramatic dullness. Indeed, at times, it seems as if Hayward and Robinson are in a race to see who can go over the top the fastest and the farthest. (Robinson, in one of the most delightfully bizarre performances ever, wins hands down, but Hayward's sultry, bitchy performance is still a hoot.) The dialogue is just what you would expect, and the plot really exists only as an excuse for the action sequences (which are very well handled). As a sequel to The Robe, Demetrius has to wrap itself in the cloak of religion, but its heart is with its gladiators, not its depiction of the early days of Christianity -- which is fortunate, for as a historical document, Demetrius comes up very, very short.