The Robe Henry Koster

The Robe Henry Koster
Introduced by Martin Scorsese, the current reissue of The Robe doubles as a celebration of the CinemaScope format. The first film released in CinemaScope — a widescreen movie format used from 1953 to 1957 — the use of anamorphic lenses creates a fitting frame for a grandly cornball variation on The Greatest Story Ever Told, which is still pretty good, don't forget. Richard Burton plays Marcellus Gallio, a Roman military tribune who wins the robe of Christ in a gambling match shortly after putting God's son to death. The robe becomes a Poe-like reminder/clarifier for his wrongdoing, plaguing him with nightmares about killing the obviously righteous dude. After this lengthy setup, Marcellus enters his spiritual quest and makes a stand against the sadistic Caligula (Jay Robinson, with a performance making Malcolm McDowell's later portrayal of the ridiculously fey ruler appear restrained). This being Fox's action film financial tent pole, Marcellus affects the proto-Schwarzenegger-ian attitude of maintaining peace by beating the living hell out of his opponents. The naturally charismatic Burton, no doubt faced with his own moral quandaries by carrying on an affair with married co-star Jean Simmons, nonetheless effortlessly coasts through the role, standing strong among the cheese ball biblical roles of the era with Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments). The remastered picture highlights some choppy colour editing, as also referenced by the variety of film historians on the commentary track, including Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, which is otherwise heartening, if overly doting on Alfred Newman's score. In a time where the best we have to offer is the nauseating IMAX and the gimmicky rehash of 3-D, The Robe, if nothing else, serves as a reminder of an era of truly thinking big. (Fox)