Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1951. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, S.N. Behrman, Sonya Levien, based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Cinematography by William V. Skall, Robert Surtees. Produced by Sam Zimbalist. Music by Miklos Rozsa. Production Design by Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons, William A. Horning. Costume Design by Herschel McCoy. Film Editing by Ralph E. Winters. Academy Awards 1951. Golden Globe Awards 1951.
Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr throw Christians to the lions, then live to feel the conscientious guilt. Huge sets and thousands of extras in ‘authentic’ Biblical period costumes are exciting and eye-popping, but the only thing that makes this film worth reaching for instead of similar sandal epics like Ben-Hur and The Robe is the delightful performance by Peter Ustinov as the half-crazed Emperor Nero; Taylor, meanwhile, is wooden and Kerr is embarrassingly melodramatic. History books have listed Sophia Loren as making her film debut as an extra in this film, and Elizabeth Taylor as having made a cameo appearance (I never noticed either).