Demetrius and the Gladiators is a 1954 Sword and Sandal film and sequel to The Robe. Made by 20th Century Fox, the film was directed by Delmer Daves and produced by Frank Ross, and starred Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, and Jay Robinson, who as Caligula is so far over the top, he could have landed on the moon 15 years before Neil Armstrong. The score by Franz Waxman re-cycled Alfred Newman's themes from the earlier film.
The film follows a Christian slave Demetrius (Mature), who, instead of being executed, is made to become a gladiator by the Roman emperor Caligula (Robinson), in which capacity he captures the roving eye of the wicked Messalina (Hayward), priestess of Isis and wife of Claudius. The story follows Demetrius' battles and victories, all in his attempts simply to survive the battles in which he is forced to compete.
Tropes associated with this work:
- Bodyguard Betrayal: Eventually even the Praetorian guard get fed up with Caligula and kill him, allowing Claudius to become emperor.
- Evil Redhead: Messalina, red-haired temptress and pagan priestess of Isis.
- Face–Heel Turn: Demetrius loses his faith in Christ as God after Lucia seemingly dies despite his prayer, and he begins killing his opponents in the arena instead of sparing them. He renounces his faith to Caligula, earning the position of Tribune and beginning an affair with Messalina. Eventually he discovers that Lucia is still alive and makes a Heel–Face Turn again.
- Gladiator Games: Much of the story involves gladiators, their training and their fights as it tells the story of how Demetrius goes from freed slave to gladiator, and his rise in their ranks as he becomes Messalina's boytoy, and later tells of his redemption. Many of the supporting characters are gladiators or former gladiators.
- The Vamp: Messalina is both beautiful and wicked, using her wiles to tempt Demetrius away from Christ.