Saturday, 11 July 2020

Movie Review: The Sword And The Cross (1958)


A Biblical story on a budget, The Sword And The Cross (also known as Mary Magdalene) is a clunky Italian production elaborating on the story of the woman closest to Christ's inner circle.

Roman Centurion Gaius Marcellus (Jorge Mistral) arrives in Judea to help control the restless region, with rumours of preacher Jesus Christ inspiring the people. Marcellus rescues Jerusalem courtesan Maria Magdalene (Yvonne De Carlo) from the clutches of local bandit Barabbas (Andrea Aureli). Marcellus and Maria then embark on a torrid affair, but recognizing no relationship between a Jewess and a Roman can be allowed, she abandons him.

Maria resumes her activities as a seductive dancer at high-society parties. Her sister Martha (Rossana Podesta) and brother Lazarus (Mario Girotti, later known as Terence Hill) are both early followers of Christ, and as she is exposed to His presence Maria starts to question her lifestyle. With local Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Philippe Hersent) growing increasingly concerned about rumours of rebellion, Marcellus is given orders to arrest Jesus.

With a juvenile script, wooden acting and plastic sets, The Sword And The Cross trudges through the story of Jesus from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. Christ is never fully shown on screen, His presence intimated and voice amplified to echoey spectral levels for full effect. The Sandro Continenza script takes some liberties with traditional Biblical stories to increase Mary's involvement in Christ's life, and director Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia puts in a decent shift to tighten the circle of characters and connect the Romans, bandits and disbelievers to Mary and the trail of events leading to the Crucifiction.

But this is an unfortunately cheap production, blank stares and theatrical delivery exposing a depressing lack of talent. The skirmish scenes are poorly directed, the extras often spotted standing around wondering what to do. Yvonne De Carlo descends to the level of the material with a vacuous performance, and Jorge Mistral never comes close to convincing as a Roman soldier. 

The Sword And The Cross is neither comically campy nor soulfully stirring, just dismally dull.






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