'The Robe' in CinemaScope Declared Film Spectacle

By Howard Pearson, News Theater Editor
Deseret News, 1 October 1953

The scene is a hill outside of Jerusalem.

The din of thunder drowns out thinking. Lightning blankets the sky.

On the crest of the hill are three crosses. Beneath one of them, a group of Roman soldiers is gambling for a garment which has fallen from around one of the men on a cross.

The garment is won by one of the soldiers, and as he picks it up, the elements release a frightening display. The soldiers fear for their lives. Above the noise sound the words: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

This - one of the most memorable events in history - is thus depicted in a history-making motion picture, "The Robe."

The scene is moving, terrible and magnificent. Laid out on a screen so large a viewer has to turn his head to see from end to end, it is doubly impressive.

Too, it is just one of many awe-inspiring events in Hollywood's presentation of the Lloyd Douglas best seller, "The Robe." While the picture may not be "exactly" like the book, it is just as impressive. Then, too, the author of "The Robe" said himself that his book is a novel. "It is not a 'Live of Christ.' It is not a textbook Roman, Grecian and Jewish history in the first century. It is just one man's attempt to draw a picture of Jesus and the people with whom he walked and talked."

"The Robe" is the story of what happened to the soldier who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and how a legendary robe, which Christ wore affected the people who came in contact with it.

"The Robe" tells the story of no sect. It is, in the words of its author, a novel that fits well into all Christian systems. The same thing can be said for the motion picture version.

From the start - a scene in a Roman slave market place - the picture moves from one impressive scene to another. The story goes from Rome to Jerusalem. Here, the crucifixion takes place and the plot is laid out for the story that follows. The soldier who wins the garment of Christ is sticken.

He is the same man who had ordered the death of the Master, and the robe symbolizes for him the enormity of his crime.

He finds no peace until near the end of the picture and the story, when he recognizes the teachings of the one he had put to death as true. Then he becomes a Christian and goes to his own death.

The movie has no lagging spots. One of its big features is that it moves from one splendid scene to another without a lag.

There are many outstanding performances in the picture. At least two and possibly three of the principals should figure in Academy Award nominations. Richard Burton, who takes the part of Marcellus the soldier who orders the crucifixion of Christ, ranks with any portrayal we've seen on the screen this year. Burton hails from British films and Broadway stage.

Jay Robinson, a 23-year-old Broadway "boy wonder" who makes his movie debut as the Emperor Caligula, certainly will be tapped for an Oscar nomination. Jean Simmons, who has given many moving performances on the screen, presents a lovely Diana, ward of the Emperor Tiberious, but in love with Marcellus.

Victor Mature, big, hulking, magnificent as ever, comes up with one of the best performances. Michael Jagger, as Justus, Torin Thatcher, as a senator, and the whole cast give warm, human portrayals.

CinemaScope, the new movie process which was introduced with "The Robe," is quite as impressive as the picture itself. It projects to the audience a panorama bigger than life itself.

Looking at the wide, curved screens, viewers have the impression they are part of the picture. The sound, emanating from where it is spoken, is another feature that's interesting, new and intriguing. Whatever faults, a slight blur at times, a slight buzz in the sound, are more than compensated for by the over-all splendor of the new CinemaScope screen.

"The Robe" and CinemaScope, now on view at the Lyric and Villa Theaters, truly are experiences that should not be missed.