The Fall of the Roman Empire Reviews

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jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ January 18, 2009
Overlong, plodding spectacle. Good and great actors alike trapped in this ponderous bore.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2007
Remade as an action film called "Gladiator". This one was a historical epic piece of cinema, with slightly cheesy production values.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2009
[font=Century Gothic]Throughout history, there have been focal points where events easily could have gone different ways. One such is in 180 A.D., depicted in the lavish spectacle "The Fall of the Roman Empire" that starts with blind soothsayer Cleander(Mel Ferrer) not being able to find the heart of a chicken which is not a good sign. Dying Emperor Marcus Aurelius(Alec Guinness) is putting his affairs in order and wants peace after seventeen years of war and a talk with Ballomar(John Ireland), the enemy commander. He also names General Livius(Stephen Boyd) his heir over his own unstable son Commodus(Christopher Plummer).[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]The other divergence I want to bring up is the different possible approaches to the same material. "The Fall of the Roman Empire" and "Gladiator" are both inspired by the same events but that is where the similarities end. Whereas "Gladiator" exploits violence and revenge for their own sake, "The Fall of the Roman Empire" is a literate tragedy about peace and what it takes to govern an empire. It is helped by giving the various characters time enough to articulate their own positions. And James Mason is espeiclally superb at this and Finlay Currie has a great speech of his own. But don't worry. There are some epic battle scenes and a thrilling chariot ride through the forest, all of which are better appreciated when there are less special effects used.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]In fact, "The Fall of the Roman Empire" marks the end of an era in a different way. This was one of the last grand epics of the Hollywood studio system.(Why so many of them had to feature Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif is beyond me.) After this, the movies would get smaller for a while. It was probably for the best.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]Note: Christopher Plummer, James Mason and Anthony Quayle were also in "Murder by Decree."[/font]
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
August 7, 2012
Boy, back in the '60s, they sure loved to make epics about the Roman Empire, and really long ones at that, so you better believe that they were going to make the big, highly anticipated epic about the final downfall of the Roman Empire no less than three hours. Seriously, what is this, the fall of the Roman Empire in real time? Needless to say, this film takes a while to dramatise what it pretty much summed up pretty tightly in the title, or rather, tightle. Eh, whatever, it's still a good film (Certainly better than the epic Anthony Mann did right before this one), as well it should be, considering that it has a cast of such people as Sophia Loren, as well as such talents (Notice that I made sure that Sophia Loren wasn't mentioned among the talents) as Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Mel Ferrer and Omar Sharif, all of whom were actually there during the downfall of the Roman Empire, so this film better be good and accurate. Shoot, I can see Dimitri Tiomkin being the biggest person saying that this film better be good, because his score on this puppy is actually only about thirty minutes shorter than the whole final cut of the film, and this film is, like, four days long, so you know that Tiomkin worked his orchestra to death. No wonder Tiomkin died three years after Peter Frampton came out with "Do You Feel Like We Do", or rather, halfway through the solo of Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do", as he couldn't take the shock of being topped at really long musical solos... let alone the shock of the rock. Man, that song is awesome, even if its album version does make "Stairway to Heaven" look about as long as a Creedence Clearwater Revival song (The album version of "Susie Q" quite obviously notwithstanding), though Tiomkin's score for this film isn't too shabby either, nor is the film itself, yet make no mistake, Tiomkin's booming score can't fully drown out some of the undeniably boastful faults made by this film.

I joke about this pretty much being the definitive Roman epic film, but really, it kind of is, in that it falls into most every trope established by many of the Roman epics that preceded. Now, the film has its then-unique touches, and is certainly more intelligent than a few other Roman epics of its type and era, yet this is still Anthony Mann, the director of "El Cid", we're talking about, so of course the film still collapses into the conventions of its genre, which I don't mind too much, even a few collapses into conventions are rather glaring ones, because that's pretty much what you did with Roman epics at the time and, shoot, still kind of do with any sword-and-sandle epic of a similar type now, but the problem is that quite a few of the conventions collapsed into have always been rather problematic ones. The Roman epic genre has been tainted with more melodrama that you'd think, and this film is, again, directed by the guy who did "El Cid" for goodness' sakes, so sure enough, while this film isn't quite as cornball as Anthony Mann's preceding epic, it still collapses into melodrama all too often. Still, the story's cheesier spots don't quite end with corny romances and melodramatic drama, for although the film isn't really corny, it does have quite a few rather sensationalized and somewhat cheesy moments that aren't especially glaring, but are still decidedly quite unsubtle and dilute the story's effectiveness, partially because these collapses into cheesiness are often all too recognizable. Outside of that, another major and sometimes problematic convention that this film succumbs to is, of course, just being so blasted long, and not always fittingly so, finding itself, not padded nearly as much as I had feared, but still being padded quite considerably in some spots, at which point, the film quickly loses steam that it subsequently recovers just as quickly, yet these overdrawn spots remains present throughout the film, meaning that the film still loses quite a bit of steam quite often. The film is a massive pieces of spectacle indeed, though perhaps too massive, being sometimes gratuitously sprawling, with the intrigue that should back it up being diluted by the film's being so conventional and occasionally dramatically faulty. However, this film does not fall under the immense pressure of its faults, for although the film is indeed faulty, and somewhat all too familiar as a sword-and-sandal epic, like other sword-and-sandal epics of its type, it rewards fairly deeply by the end, while keeping consistently rewarding, if nothing else, stylistically.

Among the handful of things that I could give "El Cid" credit for was handsome cinematography, and with this film, Robert Krasker steps things up, drenching the film in a kind of dated grit, yet grit that still stands the test of time well enough to catch your eye and breathe life into this world, perhaps just as much as the sweeping shots Krasker sets up. Something along those lines can be said about the production values, as they have dated, and most all of them are all too similar to the production values of other Roman epics (Once again, "El Cid" did the same thing), yet regardless, the production designs remain detailed enough to sell you on this world, as well as grand enough to sell you on the vastness of this world. Next to all that and some actually pretty cool action sequences, another big reminder that this very much is an epic is, of course, Dimitri Tiomkin's sprawling score, which, like most everything else in this film, is a bit too similar to that of other sword-and-sandal Roman epics of this type, yet it remains remarkable, bursting with grandness and livliness that may not have been especially inventive at the time, but still sparks a lot of texture in this film and keeps it consistently, if nothing else, entertaining. Still, the film owes a lot to Anthony Mann for being more than just entertaining, because what really turned me off to "El Cid" was its consistently feeling either uninspired or overambitious, or at least until the final act, when Mann really did get a grip on things, yet here, Mann is consistent in keeping a grip on things, certainly not to where the film isn't without its many problems, but still to where he creates a consistent aura of intrigue and, yes, even intelligence, broken up by unexpected occasions of perhaps too slow, but generally thoughtful and effective meditative dramatic depth, which may often go tainted by melodrama and other types of cheesiness, but mostly hits pretty hard and gives this story weight, something that it really does need, considering that this story is, of course, a strong one. Next to Mann, the thing that springs this story to life is, of course, the massive cast of talents... and Sophia Loren. Actually, as much as I complain about Sophia Loren not being a terribly good actress, and as terrible as she was in "El Cid", she holds its together better than I expected in this film, even if she is pretty much playing a better-acted version of who she played in "El Cid", which isn't to say that she's especially good, especially in comparison with the other skilled members of this cast of film legends, from a show-stealingly layered and soulful Christopher Plummer as the overambitious and corrupt Commodus (First Plummer, and later Joaquin Phoenix; I suppose Commodus is one of those show-stealer roles), to Alec Guinness as a charmingly noble yet firm Marcus Aurelius, or rather, a preview of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Some performances are better than others, and all performances are held back to one extent or another, but when it's all said and done with, there is enough skill within the cast, as well as within Anthony Mann's direction, to bring this story to life, and with fine style and production value complimenting both style and this substance, what we're ultimately left with is an epic that stands not only certainly much better than "El Cid", but among the other good Roman epics from which it quite often takes as a generally rewarding piece of entertainment with fair amount of intrigue and substance.

When the curtains fall (I don't know what curtains have to do with anything, I was just trying crowbar in the key title word, fall), the film, much like Anthony Mann's preceding "El Cid" and, by extension, many other sword-and-sandal epics of this time and type, is extremely cliched, collapsing into one trop after another, many of which are problematic to begin with, whether it be some cheesiness - found mostly in the form of immense melodrama - or excessive padding that leaves the film to lose quite a bit of steam quite often, thus leaving the film itself to run the risk of falling under the weight of its own faults, yet it ultimately emerges leaps and bounds ahead of something like the mess that was "El Cid", as well as rewarding by its own right, boasting dated but fine cinematography and production designs that present an epic sweep that goes complimented by Dimitri Tiomkin's grand score, and goes, in and of itself, complimentary to the strong story, brought to life by generally inspired and intriguing direction by Anthony Mann, as well as by a colorful cast of talents who hold their own and help in making "The Fall of the Roman Empire" an epic that rises past its missteps to ultimately stand as consistently entertaining, sometimes gripping and altogether rewarding.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
December 28, 2010
It takes 90 minutes to tell the same story that Gladiator told in the first 15 minutes. However, It is really cool to see Alec Guinness.
DrLappos
Super Reviewer
April 27, 2009
Beautiful classic and Loren is and always will be a stunner.
½ November 7, 2014
This movie is an over done epic three hour movie set during an obscure era of the Roman Empire. They spent a lot of money on the sets but the story is a dull political drama. This was set in the 2nd Century when Rome was at the height of its power. The Roman Empire didn't really begin to fall until the 3rd and 4th Centuries when Constantine the Great moved the Capital to Constantinople and made the Catholic Church the official religion of the Roman Empire. Although they spent a lot of money for the costumes for the movie the battle scenes didn't look real and didn't show how the Romans really made war. They had the Romans riding around on horses and fighting battles on horseback. The real Romans were poor horsemen. Their infantry was unbeatable but they had no stirrups and their barbarian enemies did. The movie showed the battles in the forests of northern Europe were horses were not used in battle. The movie Gladiator did a better job showing the battles. Gladiator was also just a better movie. By using computer graphics Gladiator was able to depict the city of Rome in the 2nd century much cheaper without having to build a wooden model in the middle of Spain. When this movie came out in 1964 there had been several epic movies in the 1950's and early 1960's that had been very popular. Those movies had plots that tied historic stories to current events that paralleled events in the past. This movie came out after the Kennedy assassination and the beginning of the Vietnam War. The American public couldn't make the connection between this movie and the current events they were seeing of TV and in the newspapers. When this movie was remade as the movie Gladiator they made the Roman General into a gladiator which was historical fiction but it paralleled American love of big time professional sports. Both movies had a lot of historical fiction. The good part of the movie was Obi Wan Kenobi as a Roman Emperor.
July 12, 2008
An uncommonly cerebral version of a sword-and-sandal epic. Not quite as good as it's progeny Gladiator but well-made and very entertaining, nevertheless. Alec Guiness was a natural choice for Marcus Aurelius and Plummer really established himself in Hollywood in a superb performance as Commodus. A bit long considering it's emphasis on dialogue over action but I would rather watch 4 hours of this than 2 hours of most contemporary historical epics.
August 17, 2008
The least of Anthony Mann's movies, though every dollar that didn't get stolen is on the screen. Still, some startling moments amidst the general sprawl and turgid set-pieces. Boyd and Loren cannot carry the movie. Christopher Plummer is wonderfully evil as Commodus. The great James Mason is an embarrassment in the thankless role of a second century hippie. Alec Guinness is actually pompous and uninteresting as the historically fascinating Marcus Aurelius. (Who'd know that Guinness was the greatest comic actor of his generation?) As for much of the movie. "Here we are on the German frontier. Oops, I've been summoned to Rome." Scenes of travel. "Here I am in Rome. Ooops---" Despite all of this, it succumbs to ridiculousness, but never to tedium. Worth watching, really.
½ March 19, 2015
Epic but not that great.

Massive in its scale, sets, ambition and running time this movie is more about showing off how big you can make a movie than how well you can make a movie. Plot isn't entirely historically accurate, and is in some ways a soap opera with historical figures (and many fictional characters).

This isn't helped by a fairly unconvincing performance in the lead role by Stephen Boyd. Wooden, lame and just plain irritating.

Christopher Plummer and Sophia Loren are OK. Best performances come from James Mason and Alec Guinness, who both bring a suitable amount of gravitas to the movie.

There is some degree of truth to the plot, and the battle scenes are great, and these are what make the movie not a total waste of time.
April 16, 2014
When this film came out 50 years ago, it was cursed by the audience's growing lack of interest in epic films. It may have been doomed in the box office, but it was a great film, and I feel it deserves to be mentioned alongside the various other great films. The characters are all played incredibly well, and their performance goes great with some interesting lines and amazing speeches. It might be impossible for me to judge whether or not the film is historically accurate (because I'm not a history buff), but the story is very engaging, which is helped by the stellar performance of the film's cast. The film looks great, with numerous amazing set pieces, costumes, and beautiful locations. The film's pace is slow, but it leads to a satisfying conclusion, and when the action happens, it flows very well. In summary, it's a classic movie that didn't get as much attention as it should have when it was new. If you haven't seen it, then I suggest that you go see it, if you can handle the film's three-hour length.
September 1, 2012
A film made on an epic scale and more than likely deserving of box office success. Alas, this was not to be. A great film though, all things considered.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
August 7, 2012
Boy, back in the '60s, they sure loved to make epics about the Roman Empire, and really long ones at that, so you better believe that they were going to make the big, highly anticipated epic about the final downfall of the Roman Empire no less than three hours. Seriously, what is this, the fall of the Roman Empire in real time? Needless to say, this film takes a while to dramatise what it pretty much summed up pretty tightly in the title, or rather, tightle. Eh, whatever, it's still a good film (Certainly better than the epic Anthony Mann did right before this one), as well it should be, considering that it has a cast of such people as Sophia Loren, as well as such talents (Notice that I made sure that Sophia Loren wasn't mentioned among the talents) as Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Mel Ferrer and Omar Sharif, all of whom were actually there during the downfall of the Roman Empire, so this film better be good and accurate. Shoot, I can see Dimitri Tiomkin being the biggest person saying that this film better be good, because his score on this puppy is actually only about thirty minutes shorter than the whole final cut of the film, and this film is, like, four days long, so you know that Tiomkin worked his orchestra to death. No wonder Tiomkin died three years after Peter Frampton came out with "Do You Feel Like We Do", or rather, halfway through the solo of Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do", as he couldn't take the shock of being topped at really long musical solos... let alone the shock of the rock. Man, that song is awesome, even if its album version does make "Stairway to Heaven" look about as long as a Creedence Clearwater Revival song (The album version of "Susie Q" quite obviously notwithstanding), though Tiomkin's score for this film isn't too shabby either, nor is the film itself, yet make no mistake, Tiomkin's booming score can't fully drown out some of the undeniably boastful faults made by this film.

I joke about this pretty much being the definitive Roman epic film, but really, it kind of is, in that it falls into most every trope established by many of the Roman epics that preceded. Now, the film has its then-unique touches, and is certainly more intelligent than a few other Roman epics of its type and era, yet this is still Anthony Mann, the director of "El Cid", we're talking about, so of course the film still collapses into the conventions of its genre, which I don't mind too much, even a few collapses into conventions are rather glaring ones, because that's pretty much what you did with Roman epics at the time and, shoot, still kind of do with any sword-and-sandle epic of a similar type now, but the problem is that quite a few of the conventions collapsed into have always been rather problematic ones. The Roman epic genre has been tainted with more melodrama that you'd think, and this film is, again, directed by the guy who did "El Cid" for goodness' sakes, so sure enough, while this film isn't quite as cornball as Anthony Mann's preceding epic, it still collapses into melodrama all too often. Still, the story's cheesier spots don't quite end with corny romances and melodramatic drama, for although the film isn't really corny, it does have quite a few rather sensationalized and somewhat cheesy moments that aren't especially glaring, but are still decidedly quite unsubtle and dilute the story's effectiveness, partially because these collapses into cheesiness are often all too recognizable. Outside of that, another major and sometimes problematic convention that this film succumbs to is, of course, just being so blasted long, and not always fittingly so, finding itself, not padded nearly as much as I had feared, but still being padded quite considerably in some spots, at which point, the film quickly loses steam that it subsequently recovers just as quickly, yet these overdrawn spots remains present throughout the film, meaning that the film still loses quite a bit of steam quite often. The film is a massive pieces of spectacle indeed, though perhaps too massive, being sometimes gratuitously sprawling, with the intrigue that should back it up being diluted by the film's being so conventional and occasionally dramatically faulty. However, this film does not fall under the immense pressure of its faults, for although the film is indeed faulty, and somewhat all too familiar as a sword-and-sandal epic, like other sword-and-sandal epics of its type, it rewards fairly deeply by the end, while keeping consistently rewarding, if nothing else, stylistically.

Among the handful of things that I could give "El Cid" credit for was handsome cinematography, and with this film, Robert Krasker steps things up, drenching the film in a kind of dated grit, yet grit that still stands the test of time well enough to catch your eye and breathe life into this world, perhaps just as much as the sweeping shots Krasker sets up. Something along those lines can be said about the production values, as they have dated, and most all of them are all too similar to the production values of other Roman epics (Once again, "El Cid" did the same thing), yet regardless, the production designs remain detailed enough to sell you on this world, as well as grand enough to sell you on the vastness of this world. Next to all that and some actually pretty cool action sequences, another big reminder that this very much is an epic is, of course, Dimitri Tiomkin's sprawling score, which, like most everything else in this film, is a bit too similar to that of other sword-and-sandal Roman epics of this type, yet it remains remarkable, bursting with grandness and livliness that may not have been especially inventive at the time, but still sparks a lot of texture in this film and keeps it consistently, if nothing else, entertaining. Still, the film owes a lot to Anthony Mann for being more than just entertaining, because what really turned me off to "El Cid" was its consistently feeling either uninspired or overambitious, or at least until the final act, when Mann really did get a grip on things, yet here, Mann is consistent in keeping a grip on things, certainly not to where the film isn't without its many problems, but still to where he creates a consistent aura of intrigue and, yes, even intelligence, broken up by unexpected occasions of perhaps too slow, but generally thoughtful and effective meditative dramatic depth, which may often go tainted by melodrama and other types of cheesiness, but mostly hits pretty hard and gives this story weight, something that it really does need, considering that this story is, of course, a strong one. Next to Mann, the thing that springs this story to life is, of course, the massive cast of talents... and Sophia Loren. Actually, as much as I complain about Sophia Loren not being a terribly good actress, and as terrible as she was in "El Cid", she holds its together better than I expected in this film, even if she is pretty much playing a better-acted version of who she played in "El Cid", which isn't to say that she's especially good, especially in comparison with the other skilled members of this cast of film legends, from a show-stealingly layered and soulful Christopher Plummer as the overambitious and corrupt Commodus (First Plummer, and later Joaquin Phoenix; I suppose Commodus is one of those show-stealer roles), to Alec Guinness as a charmingly noble yet firm Marcus Aurelius, or rather, a preview of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Some performances are better than others, and all performances are held back to one extent or another, but when it's all said and done with, there is enough skill within the cast, as well as within Anthony Mann's direction, to bring this story to life, and with fine style and production value complimenting both style and this substance, what we're ultimately left with is an epic that stands not only certainly much better than "El Cid", but among the other good Roman epics from which it quite often takes as a generally rewarding piece of entertainment with fair amount of intrigue and substance.

When the curtains fall (I don't know what curtains have to do with anything, I was just trying crowbar in the key title word, fall), the film, much like Anthony Mann's preceding "El Cid" and, by extension, many other sword-and-sandal epics of this time and type, is extremely cliched, collapsing into one trop after another, many of which are problematic to begin with, whether it be some cheesiness - found mostly in the form of immense melodrama - or excessive padding that leaves the film to lose quite a bit of steam quite often, thus leaving the film itself to run the risk of falling under the weight of its own faults, yet it ultimately emerges leaps and bounds ahead of something like the mess that was "El Cid", as well as rewarding by its own right, boasting dated but fine cinematography and production designs that present an epic sweep that goes complimented by Dimitri Tiomkin's grand score, and goes, in and of itself, complimentary to the strong story, brought to life by generally inspired and intriguing direction by Anthony Mann, as well as by a colorful cast of talents who hold their own and help in making "The Fall of the Roman Empire" an epic that rises past its missteps to ultimately stand as consistently entertaining, sometimes gripping and altogether rewarding.

3/5 - Good
July 13, 2012
I never thought I'd be so bored watching a movie with Sophia Loren, Christopher Plummer and the great Alec Guinness.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2009
[font=Century Gothic]Throughout history, there have been focal points where events easily could have gone different ways. One such is in 180 A.D., depicted in the lavish spectacle "The Fall of the Roman Empire" that starts with blind soothsayer Cleander(Mel Ferrer) not being able to find the heart of a chicken which is not a good sign. Dying Emperor Marcus Aurelius(Alec Guinness) is putting his affairs in order and wants peace after seventeen years of war and a talk with Ballomar(John Ireland), the enemy commander. He also names General Livius(Stephen Boyd) his heir over his own unstable son Commodus(Christopher Plummer).[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]The other divergence I want to bring up is the different possible approaches to the same material. "The Fall of the Roman Empire" and "Gladiator" are both inspired by the same events but that is where the similarities end. Whereas "Gladiator" exploits violence and revenge for their own sake, "The Fall of the Roman Empire" is a literate tragedy about peace and what it takes to govern an empire. It is helped by giving the various characters time enough to articulate their own positions. And James Mason is espeiclally superb at this and Finlay Currie has a great speech of his own. But don't worry. There are some epic battle scenes and a thrilling chariot ride through the forest, all of which are better appreciated when there are less special effects used.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]In fact, "The Fall of the Roman Empire" marks the end of an era in a different way. This was one of the last grand epics of the Hollywood studio system.(Why so many of them had to feature Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif is beyond me.) After this, the movies would get smaller for a while. It was probably for the best.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]Note: Christopher Plummer, James Mason and Anthony Quayle were also in "Murder by Decree."[/font]
September 12, 2006
Though this film isn't as flashy as its remake ([i]Gladiator), [/i]it is insightful into vanity, greed, and pettiness that caused the fall of Rome. It is a lesson for us in our own time to be careful of destroying ourselves from within. The film has some interesting character sketches and good action scenes were impressive because they were done without computer imagery. Some of the scenes are sluggish, but film is worth seeing despite its length. I noticed echos of Ben Hur - Stephen Boyd's character having an old friendship with another character, chariot racing, and souring of the friendship. Tiomkin gets bit carried away with the soundtrack, as he did in many of his film scores, but here it seems annoying. Though I admired Alec Guinness' scenes, I thought James Mason stole every scene he was in.
½ January 17, 2006
Whilst it is not as good as Ben-Hur, Spartacus, or Quo Vadis, Fall of the Roman Empire is a well presented piece with an amazing cast, magnificent sets and massive battles. Alec Guiness is the highlight, and Christopher Plummer is excellent as Commodus (better than Joaquin Phoenix, at least).

Worth a Look.
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