As we are reminded by Martin Scorcese in the introduction, The Robe was the first movie filmed in Cinemascope. The Robe Special Edition DVD features a restored version of this historical epic. If this is a restored version, past efforts by Hollywood studios have been but practice. Even on mere DVD and not Blu-ray, The Robe is visually spectacular and absolutely crisp.
Richard Burton, in one of his less emoting performances –relatively speaking-- plays Roman Tribune Marcellus Gallio. Gallio is a bon vivant who incurs Caligula’s anger and is sent to Jerusalem just when the Savior is creating havoc. With him, Gallio brings newly acquired slave Demetrius (Victor Mature) and leaves behind childhood friend and perhaps love interest Diana (Jean Simmons). Gallio’s first act is to bribe someone to find out where Jesus is hiding out. He then leads the crucifixion party in some quite restrained scenes.
The Robe picks up after the crucifixion when Gallio wins Christ’s robe. He puts the robe on, is traumatized, and asks Demetrius to take the robe off him. Demetrius takes the robe and runs away. Gallio then goes to Capri and is told the only way he can find his marbles or get rid of the curse that is making him unstable is find the robe and destroy it.
The search for the robe and what happens next is basically a prop to show what may have happened after Jesus’ death, including Peter’s first steps. To tell more would be to tell too much but Caligula (played by Jay Robinson who chews scenery with the best of them and then goes for the matte background paintings as well) and Diana do play important parts. There are also a couple of good saber fights and a decent chase scene.
As most historical epics of the period, The Robe is overly dramatic, especially Victory Mature and the musical score. It is also somewhat didactic.
If you like historical and biblical movies, The Robe Special Edition DVD is a good one.
Special features on The Robe Special Edition DVD include The Making of The Robe featurette; Commentary track with Film Composer David Newman and two film historians; Isolated musical track; a stills gallery; and an interactive pressbook.
I was unable to find The Cinemascope Story featurette promised on the DVD jacket.