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D. Roberts | Battle Creek, Michigan United States | 08/18/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The vast majority of this movie that centers on Constantine's personal life is pure fiction. However, that is not so bad; "Gladiator" re-wrote history, too, but was nonetheless a great movie. And this movie does not fabricate history just to fabricate, but rather it does so with the objective of tying Constantine and Christianity together. One of the more notable scenes in which historical fact comes together with a fudging of Constantine's life is the arena scene. In this segment, Constantine jumps down into a pit where Christians are maliciously being slaughtered. Historically, the feeding-the-Christians-to-the-lions motif is right on. Under the emperor Galerius (ruled 305-311 A.D., shortly before Constantine ascended to the throne), Christian persecution was at its height. While it is untrue that Constantine slew lions to save Christians, the arena scene nevertheless serves as an excellent depiction of incidents which really happened.The really notable quality of this movie lies in its portrayal of major historical happenings. As a previous reviewer noted, Diocletian and Maximian really did abdicate the throne in 308. It is also true that his mother, Helena, was a Christian (although the details re: his relationship w/her in the movie are fictional). He did marry Fausta (although he had her and his eldest son Crispus put to death for treason in 326 - long after the time period covered in this movie). The inclusion of Constantine's "divine vision" before his battle with Maxentius is essential; perhaps one of the defining moments in the entire history of Christianity. The actual battle itself is also given accurate treatment as Maxentius' cavalry was ambushed and trapped by Constantine's forces, just as the film claims.Now, for the bad news. I found the acting of the females in this movie quite well done, but the male actors were stilted, overly-dramatic & pretty much downright awful. The quality of the film itself also leaves quite a bit to be desired. All of the scratches and skips are amplified by the DVD picture.All in all, this film is most definitely not for everyone. However, it is well worth the time for anyone who is interested in Roman history, world history or the history of Christianity."
Not bad for a low-budget epic
David S. Michaels | Valencia, CA United States | 04/03/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw "Constantine and the Cross" when I was maybe 8 years old, 34 years ago. The scene where Constantine sees the flaming cross in the sky became imbedded in my memory, and from then on I had a fascination with Roman history that led to my current career (I sell Roman coins and write historical novels for a living!). Ever since then, I've wanted to see the movie again, but to my immense frustration, it seemed to disappear completely from any TV playlists. I also could never find it on VHS videotape. Imagine my delight when a friend picked up a newly released DVD of "Constantine and the Cross" and loaned it to me! "Don't expect much," he told me. "It's pretty awful." Despite this warning, my hands were almost trembling as I slipped the disk into my new DVD player... Well, how does it stack up 34 years after the first viewing? Suprisingly, not as badly as I would have thought. It's an Italian-American co-production starring Cornel Wilde as Constantine and a bunch of Italian sword-and-sandles stock players, made circa 1960 to cash in on the "Ben Hur" biblical epic craze. The budget was obviously pretty slim, and the cinematography, costumes and sets all have the standard Italian budget production look. Despite this, the script is suprisingly literate. I was amazed at the amount of real history the makers crammed in, resisting the temptation to "dumb down" one of the most complex and fascinating eras in history, the early 4th Century AD. At any one time, there were as many as six Emperors ruling different parts of the Empire, and the scriptwriters make a creditable stab at sorting through this confusion. My favorite was the scene where the co-Emperors Diocletian and Maximian jointly abdicate their thrones and name four new rulers--an event that actually took place pretty much as depicted! They even had enough extras to field a pretty good size Roman army, although the battle scenes are all pretty hokey by "Spartacus" or "Braveheart" standards. Cornel Wilde gives a suprisingly nuanced performance as Constantine, starting out as an arrogant young hothead and maturing into a man bent on creating a free and just Roman Empire. The actress who plays Constantine's love interest, Fausta, is pretty luscious, and the Italian actor who plays Maxentius, the bad guy, is silkily effective (and looks pretty much like the real Maxentius, whose face is still recognizable from his coins--likewise for Wilde as Constantine). Anyway, I watched this whole film with a huge grin on my face, reliving the spark that had set me on my life's course. My only real complaint is the state of the film itself--the color is very washed out, and there are numerous scratches, blips and color blobs--this looks like a print that was scored from a High School AV closet."
One of the more elaborate Italian epics
Mr. Db Rayner | STOKE-ON-TRENT, STAFFORDSHIRE United Kingdom | 12/17/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I ran this film (which was called CONSTANTINE THE GREAT here in the UK)in May, 1963, when I was a cinema projectionist. At the time, Italian historical spectaculars were very much the in thing, just as spaghetti Westerns would be a few years later. At the time, I thought it was quite good and a more elaborate example of the genre and particularly liked Mario Nascimbene's score. Looked at today, however, over forty years later, I have to agree with the sentiments expressed by the above reviewer. Despite amazon.com saying the film is in black and white, it's actually in Eastmancolor and TotalScope, an Italian form of CinemaScope. Unfortunately, this video transfer is one of the worst I have ever seen of a Scope film and whoever at VCI Home Video is responsible for it should be sacked. The ratio is all wrong and the anamorphic film has been transferred to video semi-squeezed, so that all the characters look tall and thin. It hurts your eyes after a while. The 35mm copy it was transferred to video from is a badly worn original exhibition print and full of splices, especially at the beginning and end of each reel, with scratched in queu marks jumping about all over the place. Presentation is everything with a film like this. It badly needs remastering properly from a brand new print and the picture correctly stretched out to its intended ratio of 2.35:1, so that there is no more image distortion. Conversely, the sound quality is excellent."
Denis Kistner | Houston, TX | 11/05/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I am unable to rate this movie, because this Mac Filmworks DVD is virtually unwatchable. The picture quality is extremely poor. The colors appear washed out, and the picture is out of focus. If you taped this off of late night TV on an old VHS recorder and then copied it several times, you would still get a better product."
One of the better sword and sandal films
3rd-man | 06/14/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Now joining the crowded field of budget DVD makers is Diamond Entertainment Corp. And like some of their ilk, the results are mixed. Which is better than most of their ilk, who are just plain lousy. I first saw Constantine and The Cross three years ago on an EP recorded videotape released by DEC. Now with the DVD, I've noticed a few changes. First, the main titles and prologue were rife with print damage: tears, scratches, etc. It looks like they've gone back and cleaned it up by running still images of each title card over the original music. The prologue text following it looks video generated, evidenced by the black dropshadow that wasn't there in the original text. Otherwise, the DVD is about the same as the tape, with the faded color and print damage mentioned by the first reviewer. Also worth mentioning is how the movie(both DVD and VHS) is letterboxed at a ratio significantly less than the 2.35 to 1 ratio of its Totalscope process. 2 to 1 at best, and everyone is a little on the thin side, suggesting then that the anamorphic print was not fully "unsqueezed".The technical issues aside, I must say that Constantine and The Cross is a good movie that separates itself from other Italian spectacles with an intelligent script and capable actors. The production values seem higher than most of that era, though it does suffers from lethargic and poorly staged battles like other peplum."