When he angers Caligula (Jay Robinson) by buying Demetrius (Victor Mature), a slave he had wanted, military officer Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) is exiled to Jerusalem. There, he encounters talk of a new 'messiah' named Jesus. When Pilate condemns this well-meaning man, Marcellus is placed in charge of the crucifixion. After the deed, he wins Christ's robe in a dice game. A strange event involving the garment shakes Marcellus to his core, causing Demetrius to steal it and disappear. Returning to Rome, Marcellus is charged by Emperor Tiberius (Ernest Thesiger) to retrieve the shroud and destroy it. Starting his search in Galilee, our hero begins to learn the teachings of Jesus. After coming in contact with former disciple Peter (Michael Rennie), Marcellus repents and returns to Rome to spread the word and win back his former flame Diana (Jean Simmons). Naturally, he too is condemned.
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He's also remembered as a patch-eyed, hard-drinking sentimentalist. He regularly chewed his handkerchief and, depressed from his binges, needed long recovery periods before being able to work. But his genius with moving images made his movies a part of our collective cinema psyches. This DVD gives us a chance to join Ford at his own level, where the sharp blacks and whites are as he originally intended, dialogue and plot are minor, and image means everything.
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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.