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.

Director:

Anthony Mann

Writers:

Ben Barzman (screenplay), Basilio Franchina (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sophia Loren ... Lucilla
Stephen Boyd ... Livius
Alec Guinness ... Marcus Aurelius
James Mason ... Timonides
Christopher Plummer ... Commodus
Anthony Quayle ... Verulus
John Ireland ... Ballomar
Omar Sharif ... Sohamus
Mel Ferrer ... Cleander
Eric Porter ... Julianus
Finlay Currie ... Senator
Andrew Keir ... Polybius
Douglas Wilmer ... Niger
George Murcell ... Victorinus
Norman Wooland ... Virgilianus
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Storyline

Intent on securing peace and prosperity throughout the mighty Roman Empire, the wise diplomat, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, calls together the local governors from all over the Empire, after conquering the Germanic tribes. With this in mind, Marcus has decided to turn over his crown and the much-coveted imperial throne to General Livius, instead of choosing his corrupt son and logical successor, Commodus. As a result, high treason and blind ambition lead to the death of Aurelius by poisoning, paving the way for a new era of oppression, endless machinations, and rapid decline. Now, as darkness prevails on the outskirts of the Empire where the Roman legions struggle to subdue the invading hordes, delusional Commodus declares himself a god, and no one is safe; not even Aurelius' daughter, Lucilla. Can anyone stop the fall of the Roman Empire? Written by Nick Riganas

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Taglines:

Their world was ending...the barbarians were at the gate...this was the time when passions, appetites, emotions ran wild See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It is hard to understand why a film about Rome is entirely shot in Spain, rather than commercial considerations. While there are so many good locations and studios available in and around Rome itself, it is actually unheard and entirely not exceptable. See more »

Goofs

When Commodus and Livius are holding the torch during Marcus Aurelius' funeral pyre, their hands move further away from the flame between shots. See more »

Quotes

Commodus: Gaius Livius! Warrior! Voyager!
Livius: Commodus, Commodus! Most Roman of them all!
Commodus: I've missed you!
Livius: Are you well?
Commodus: I'm never unwell!
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Crazy Credits

The Paramount logo did not appear on American prints. See more »

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. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Les pel·lícules del meu pare (2007) See more »

User Reviews

Far too literate a film for lovers of epic action
2 November 2002 | by uds3See all my reviews

The inspiration and source material for GLADIATOR in case you hadn't noticed. This particular historical romp coming very late in the epic cycle in the 60's was a masterpiece of script, direction and set construction. You may have thought the Colosseum in GLADIATOR was impressive - digitised though it was, but compare it to the jaw-dropping scenes in Commodus' Rome - and they BUILT those! Ridley Scott used LESS than 50 people in his Colosseum scenes - every ONE of the thousands of Roman citizens you see, are there! To film this today with the same realism would cost $600-800,000 perhaps one billion plus!

Other scenes, such as the funeral of Aurelius are simply spinal-tap if you have the slightest understanding of what you are seeing. Most people didn't - leaving the theater (even in the 60's) feeling they'd just sat through a history seminar rather than an entertaining movie. I suppose it comes down to WHAT exactly "entertains" you? Master director Martin Scorcese (an extremely literate man himself) singled this movie out as one to study for those interested in the history of American Film...I wonder why?

Curiously the role of Marcus Aurelius was the highlight (acting wise) of both THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and GLADIATOR. Sir Alec Guinness gave us a totally masterful and benevolent emperor here in just the same way that the late Richard Harris dominated GLADIATOR during his on-screen moments. The film was one to LISTEN to, to reflect on...not too munch popcorn and watch the big men fly! James Mason as Timonides, gave one of his most enduring and touching roles....he was actually injured during that scene with the lance and was unable to film for a few days.

Comments that Boyd was "wooden" and Plummer "over the top," irritate me also. Livius was a noble man of integrity - that's how Boyd portrayed him, these weren't times for off-the-cuff humor. Similarly, evidence exists that Commodus himself was not the "thinking man's choice" of emperor - cruel, vengeful and way left-field of normal! Plummer brought all this out rather well I thought. It doesn't matter a whole lot to me OR Anthony Mann I suppose, what YOU thought about it! Sophia Loren? Not your average "legally blonde" Romanic bimbo either. The epitome of poise and elegance...way too "wooden" for the new millennium!

I believe the FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE is right up there with BEN HUR and Stanley Kubrick's SPARTACUS. Most any intelligent and perceptive person would agree! I would happily have watched it for 280 minutes!


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 March 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Fall of the Roman Empire See more »

Filming Locations:

Comunidad Valenciana, Spain See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$19,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1970 re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm optical prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
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