20th Century Fox’s The Robe was the first motion picture filmed using Fox’s new process called Cinemascope (“The modern miracle you see without glasses!”).
The wide-screen technique was developed in the 1920s by French physicist Henri-Jacques Chrétien and involved the use of a special lens that spread the image over a larger area than a normal cinema screen.
The movie itself was a plodding and pious Biblical epic, with Richard Burton as Marcellus Gallio, the Roman officer who wins Christ’s robe in a game of dice during the Crucifixion.
The torn and bloody garment works its magic and, before long, Burton and Jean Simmons are hauled before the crazed Roman emperor Caligula.
Based on a doorstop bestseller by Lloyd C Douglas, it’s awkwardly directed by Henry Koster and scripted as if by a committee anxious not to offend any race or creed.
On the plus side, Burton is incredibly handsome in Roman garb and Jay Robinson makes an unforgettably melodramatic Caligula.
Victor Mature took it seriously enough to be called on for the sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators.
Betta St John