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The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Fredric March , Elissa Landi , Cecil B. DeMille  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Fredric March, Elissa Landi, Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton
  • Directors: Cecil B. DeMille
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: May 10, 2011
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004KZH5LI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,302 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Ancient Rome comes to life on a grand scale in the epic spectacular The Sign of the Cross from legendary director Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments). In the year 64 AD, the corrupt and maniacal Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) torches the city so he can blame the ensuing destruction on the unsuspecting Christians. Meanwhile, Roman Prefect Marcus Superbus (Fredric March) falls for an innocent and beautiful Christian maiden, Mercia (Elissa Landi). When the seductive and wicked Empress Poppaea (Claudette Colbert) learns that she has a romantic rival for Marcus’s attentions, she conspires with Nero to send all Christians to a chilling death. Filled with some of the most outrageous and breathtaking scenes ever filmed, including the infamous “milk bath”, this pre-code classic is a dynamic testament to Cecil B. DeMille’s visionary style.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
This is one of my favorite DeMille pictures. It's known mainly for getting censored after its initial release. It was made in pre-code 1932, and had some scenes that were removed after the production code was enforced. The scenes that were censored were Claudette Colbert taking a bath in milk, and some of the more violent scenes near the end where many Christians met their fate were cut as well. Luckily, Universal (and DeMille himself) preserved the original cut of the film and that's the one on this DVD. Those scenes are very good, but they're not particularly shocking, even for their time. In fact, the "milk" scene is funny because while Colbert is taking her bath, a cat drinks from the bath.

What makes this film as good as it is is the deep sincerity of its direction and performances. It's the story of a Roman soldier (Frederic March, who is excellent) who falls in love with a Christian girl, and the struggles he has in obtaining her love. It also is about the plight of early Christians, and the discrimination and obstacles they had to overcome to practice their faith free from persecution. They are many moving scenes in the film, including a heartbreaking one at a garden meeting of Christians, and the finale is very, very powerful. It's also unexpectedly moving and poetic, something DeMille is never given credit for in his pictures but do happen more often than not. It's a deeply memorable film, one of DeMille's finest and the one that helped resucitate his career. DeMille's career had hit the doldrums in 1932, and he needed a hit. This film was a big box office success, and helped put DeMille back on top, where he remained until his death.

The film is also available in Universal's The Cecil B. DeMille collection.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NEW LIFE TO AN OLD FILM March 3, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I used to watch a truncated version of this film which added a WWII prologue featuring a bomber flying over Rome with a crew making various comments until one of them launches into a story of ancient Rome thus beginning the original movie. Missing were scenes considered too risque by the film's re-release date. It always seemed like a bore, but since its restoration, the film takes on new life. One thing that particularly impresses me is the terror the Christians feel before entering the arena. Throughout the film, their fear of being detected lends a distinct honesty to the movie. So often, in biblical films, we see Christians with no doubts of eternal salvation and thus with head held high and no fear of death. One can have faith and still have fear with it. Courage can not exist without fear. DeMille does an excellent job in presenting this balance. I'm not a particular fan of his movies, but he has no equal in visuals. They are like great romantic oil paintings. This movie is great fun in its restored version.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the roar of the lions, the smell of the crowd April 6, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Bizarre and lavish, this 1932 epic is an entertaining curiosity piece. It starts in "Rome...the third night of the Great Fire, 64 A.D.", with Charles Laughton as a flabby, insane Nero, playing a harp and taking delight in the conflagration, with his hatred for Christians the basis for the plot.
It meshes together the faith and determination of a few brave souls with the debauchery of the times and mankind's fascination with the misfortunes of others, culminating in the remarkably well filmed Colosseum scene.
From Claudette Colbert, who plays Poppaea, Nero's wife, bathing in milk (and it was real milk, which started to sour and stink on the second of many days of filming), to the crocodiles on the march, there are depictions of every kind of excess and sensual liberty.
The costuming is skimpy, even to Frederic March's laughable micro-mini outfits, and the dialogue is often silly with some of the hammiest performances on film, but DeMille's talent for orchestrating crowd scenes, and the good/evil theme of the film make for outrageous and sometimes thought-provoking viewing. It's about depravity, courage, and the triumph (if only spiritually) of the underdog, and well worth seeing for the arena sequence alone.
Based on Wilson Barrett's popular 1895 play, the cinematography by Karl Struss (who in his long career also did the '58 cult favorite "The Fly") is brilliant, with many cross images using light/shade and doors. Total running time is 125 minutes.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last word on Hollywood Golden Age opulence May 11, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
"The Sign of the Cross" is, I believe, one of the greatest achievements of the 1930's by ultimate showman, the great
Cecil B. DeMille. Far from being the offensive excursion into gore that previous reviewers have mentioned I feel it is a very beautiful excursion into a time long gone by when people lived by the strength of their faith and were prepared to die for it if necessary.
I think Cecil B. DeMille has been grossly neglected by Hollywood as the great producer /director that he is and in this particular effort I feel he has never been better. It is, in my belief, only topped by his effort of 2 years later with "Cleopatra" for great story telling, beautifully realised sets and costumnes and great performances from all involved.
"The Sign of the Cross" tells the rather simple story of young christian girl Elissa Landi who finds herself in the difficult position of loving a Roman prefect Marcus Superby played by the great Fredric March. The story tells of her struggle between her own personal love and the sense of belonging to the oppressed christian community of Nero's Rome.
What trangresses on screen as I have said in my title is really the last word on Roman opulence and excess. Being fascinated by ancient Rome I think this film is excellent in depicting Ancient Rome in all its cruelty and splendour. If you are offended by what it displays I would just say dont look at the video!!
The story of "The Sign of the Cross" was based on a play by Waldeman Young and Sidney Buckman. The attention to detail in this film is marvellous as it is in all of DeMille's efforts. Months of painstacking research on how Ancient Rome and the general population..both Romans and Christians, looked was done.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars $A 4 is attributed to storyline although a lot of critics loved this...
Claudette Colbert early film fan. Milk scene was...different. Storyline okay with 1930's take on debauchery in the Roman era along with Christian persecution. Cecil B. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MetalMX
4.0 out of 5 stars all these christian films are really good
they show in brilliant honest simplicity, how stupid being on unsafe unbeliever non Christian side really is, and how smart being Christian is.. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jacki
4.0 out of 5 stars Pre-code masterpiece
An example of what a director was able to do in pre-code days. I prefer romantic comedies so this film stood in stark contrast to the roles I enjoy most for Claudette Colbert. Read more
Published 4 months ago by ray richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars 106 Minutes?
if anyone knows anything about it, I own the exact same VHS but it states on the box-"2 HRS. 5 MINS." Does anyone have a VHS that reads 106 Minutes? Read more
Published 9 months ago by matthewvolt
5.0 out of 5 stars Glory or a womans love.
He had it all fame, money and the love of the Empress, but true love drew water from a well and he gave it all up. He ended walking the same path she had chosen. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Daniel R Gunderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Cecil B. DeMille's classic film...uncut!
In the years before strict Hollywood censors impacted the industry, film giant Cecil B. DeMille directed this big budget sword and sandal epic. Read more
Published 16 months ago by M. Oleson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and Better Elaborate Film
Better than Cleopatra, this 1933 stunner includes the best actors in the golden era of film. Although not acknowledged as the better of the group, DeMille made a great impact.
Published 17 months ago by M. Gamez
5.0 out of 5 stars Nero sings as Rome burns ...
This is the original version of The Sign of the Cross, before the censors in Hollywood got a hold of it. But, by today's standards, it really doesn't seem racy at all. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Angela Burton
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun watch
Everything stated in Cecil B. DeMille's biography about staging, crowd scenes, attention to detail, and overlying religion with sensuality is here. Well restored.
Published 19 months ago by Gregory A. Peot
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic Glamour
One of Demille's best dirty Bible movies. Ancient Rome is a like a huge deco night club that you'd kill to visit.
Published 19 months ago by Fritz M Hasbrouck
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