Although writing reviews of remakes throughout last month was a lot of fun, there was one original that came to mind that I really wanted to review. The new month brings the opportunity to switch over and recommend the movie that inspired Ridley Scottâ€™s Gladiator. Itâ€™s Anthony Mannâ€™s Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).
Many years campaigning and pacifying the frontiers of the Roman Empire have wearied Marcus Aurelius, played by Alec Guinness (who, thanks to make-up and costume is an absolute spitting image of a marble imperial bust). Although the emperorâ€™s health is deteriorating rapidly his wits remain sharp: he knows that his son Commodus, played by a young and seriously dashing Christopher Plummer, is unfit to rule. Aurelius decides that the soldier Livius, played by Stephen Boyd, should succeed him. In anticipation of the tumult this will cause the empire, soldiers arrange to hasten the death of Aurelius to ensure Commodusâ€™ unequivocal accession to the throne.
But when the despotic Commodus becomes emperor, the chances of realizing the stable pax romanum Aurelius had hoped for disappear entirely. The empire falls into disrepair, and Livius is caught in a quandary: he owes Rome loyalty, but he also hopes to save her from the irretrievable depravity of her emperor. Liviusâ€™ love for Commodusâ€™ sister Lucilla, played by Sophia Loren, helps Livius decide which path to take. But the ending is not altogether straightforwardâ€¦
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