The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Approved   |    |  Drama, History, War

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) Poster

The death of Marcus Aurelius leads to a succession crisis, in which the deceased emperor's son, Commodus, demonstrates that he is unwilling to let anything undermine his claim to the Roman Empire.

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  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  • Alec Guinness and James Mason in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  • Sophia Loren and Stephen Boyd in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

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User Reviews

26 January 2005 | ma-cortes
| Historical and epic film with big budget financed by the great producer Samuel Bronston and spectacularly shot in Spain
The movie deals with the great emperor of Rome , Marco Aurelio (Alec Guinness) , of the dynasty of Antoninos , formed by : Nerva , Trajano , Adriano , Antonino Pio , Marco Aurelio and Commodo (Christopher Plummer , though Richard Harris was originally cast and he withdrew because of artistic differences with the director) . After that , there happens several riots and coups d'etat until Diocleciano , who imposed peace and order with the Tetrarchy . Being dead Marco Aurelio , succeeded his son Commodo , a nutty gladiator emperor , he'll take on his sister Drusilla (Sophia Loren) and Livio (Stephen Boyd replaced Charlton Heston and he blamed the massive commercial failure for ruining his career) . They'll have to fight against German barbarians (commanded by John Ireland) and Persians (ruled by Omar Shariff).

In the picture there are struggles , epic events , a love history and being very interesting , in spite of the fact that the runtime is overlong : about three hours . Budgeted at about $20 million , this was Paramount's biggest flop of 1964 , its failure cost producer Samuel Bronston his Spanish production facility . Cast and support are frankly well . As Alec Guinness as a stoic and thoughtful philosopher emperor craving the ¨Pax Romana¨ (Latin for the "Peace in Rome¨) is top-notch . Christopher Plummer's interpretation as the nut-head son is first-rate , he was 33 at the time of filming , although his character Commodus became Emperor at the age of 19 ; while other main actors as Stephen Boyd and Sophia Loren are a bit wooden . James Mason as Marco Aurelio's broody and good adviser is excellent . This lavishly financed film was originally intended to be made after El Cid and to reunite Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren . The set for the Forum Romanum was actually being built when Heston rejected the script but expressed an interest in '55 Days at Peking' instead . Samuel Bronston immediately ordered that the work on the Forum be stopped and the landscaping and foundation work be adapted for the Peking set . After filming , the Peking set was torn down and replaced by the Forum , if you look carefully , both sets share a very similar topography . Colosanti and John Moore production design is breathtaking . Battles staged by Yakima Canutt are incredible and impressive . Scenarios are overwhelming : the Roman Forum , Roman Capitol , the temples...the sets are spellbound . Colorful cinematography by the great cameraman Robert Krasker is awesome , similar to Dimitri Tiomkin's fascinating and romantic musical score . Anthony Mann's direction in his last film is spectacular and outstanding . The motion picture didn't achieve success at the box office , it was a real flop and collapsed Samuel Bronston's empire . Rating : Above average . Well worth Watching . Very Good .

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Did You Know?


Historian Will Durant was engaged to advise on period detail and plot.


Closing Narrator: This was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire. A great civilization is not conquered from without, until it has destroyed itself from within.


Although most soldiers in the ancient world wore their swords on the opposite hip from their sword arm, the Roman Legionnaires used a short sword called a gladius which they wore on their right hip. Depictions of this have led some viewers to believe that the entire Roman army was left handed.

Crazy Credits

The Paramount logo did not appear on American prints.

Alternate Versions

The film was cut a number of times, from 187 minutes to 185 to 165 to 158. The very first scene to go was one between Commodus and Livius in the middle of their drinking session on arriving at the German fort. As they go upstairs to pick out two of the hostage German women, Commodus explains that he is on the horns of not a dilemma by a trilemma - if there are gods, they have decided what he will do so it doesn't matter whether he is good or bad; if there are no gods, then it simply doesn't matter if he leads a good or a bad life; and if he himself is a god, then he gets to decide what is good or bad. That is why, if you listen carefully, you can hear the gods laughing... The omission of this scene explains that incredibly abrupt cut from them going upstairs to Commodus trying to force a drink on the German girl. There are a number of cuts in the other versions, most notably the second scene with Marcus Aurelius and Lucilla; most of Timonides' big speech to the Senate about accepting the barbarians into the Empire; and the scene where Livius tries to appeal to the Senate after failing to sway Commodus in the temple only for them to turn against him and arrest him. In some prints, the first scene after the intermission, of Lucilla leaving Marcus Aurelius' meditations in the temple for safekeeping is also dropped. Sadly, the only version that was ever released uncut was the Super 8mm feature release back in the early 1990s, which was taken from the original 16mm neg that was struck before any of the cuts were made but which was prohibitively expensive.


Plot Summary


Drama | History | War

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