Saturday, January 12, 2013

Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954): Bad Movies I Love


20th Century Fox's Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) is not a bad movie I love.



It is a bad movie that is a triumph of entertainment over history. Aired on TCM the other evening, I had not seen it in a few decades, though this movie seemed to be one of those flicks that the NYC area's Million Dollar Movie unspooled five times a week regularly when I was a kid. The movie has some of the following:

Sacred vs Profane Love! Lions vs. Christians, The Debauched vs. The Virginal, An Invisible Heaven vs. An Earthly Garden of Delights, Good Actors vs. Movie Stars! Actually, it has it all--including a sweaty, crowd-pleasing desperation and gargantuan cinematic case of Acromegaly that overcame the studio system as their grip on the American imagination began to slip thanks to television and myriad other distractions.

The tale of Demetrius and friends is ostensibly a sequel to the solemn (if subversively amusing) introductory CinemaScopic chariot ride through The New Testament known as The Robe (1953). Suggested by the popular novel by the Rev. Lloyd Douglas (Magnificent Obsession, White Banners, Green Light) that inspired The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators is more fun than the straitlaced, starchy herd scenes of MGM's Quo Vadis? (1951), and not nearly as classy as Spartacus (1960)--though the latter film seems to have used Demetrius and pals as a template for that tale of liberation spun without the inclusion of an off-screen divine Messiah.

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