Movie 7min

Christian Martyrs (1905)

Original title: Martyrs Chrétiens
Biblical and ancient scenes depicting a gladiator, martyrs, Daniel with the lions, and Belshazzar's feast in four different segments.

+ 7 images
Director Lucien Nonguet
Country France
Language French
(Original) Martyrs Chrétiens
(Country Spesific) Màrtires Cristianos
(Alternative) Les Martyrs Chrétiens
(USA, 1907) S. Lubin
Ancient Rome Angels Anthology Film Babylonian Empire Belshazzar Biblical Characters Biblical Drama Black and White Daniel Drama Early Christianity Early Christians Emperor Nero Gladiator History King Balthazar Lion Martyrdom Old Testament Roman Empire Short Silent Film Slavery The Book of Daniel

Various scenes from New Testament and Old: Christian martyrdom under Roman rule, Daniel in the lion’s den, and Belshazzar’s vision of a floating hand spelling the end of his rule.

Lubin distributed these films as four scenes under the heading "Biblical Scenes" in their 1907 Catalog. "Christian Martyrs", "Ancient Gladiator", "Daniel in the Lions' Den" and "Belthazar's Festival". Since this contains two scenes from the old testament, it is strange to call it "Christan Martyrs", but as an Anthology film, it probably takes the title from the first scene rather than distributing them as three(or four) different movies. "Daniel in the Lions' Den" and "Belthazar's Festival" are both a first in film history. Henri Bousquet tells us that in the scene where lions are eating the man from the cross, the man was substituted with a dummy consisting of horse meat, so it looks real.

Dramatic and realistic film in 3 scenes
The Martyrs (Les Martyrs)
We are in Rome, in the year 66 of our era, sometime after the fire that Emperor Nero lit. Under the blazing sun filtered through the purple velums, the stands of the circus are full of people. A hunter plays with one of the lions he hunts in the arena, slaves kidnap a dying driver, then others pick up gladiator helmets and swords scattered on the ground. At this moment, the triumphal parade of new combatants emerges towards the back of the circus, escorted by lictors to the fierce sounds of bronze trumpets; then it is the cohorts of legionnaires who frame the bearers of signs saying the glory of the Roman arms; finally, come the gladiators who, arms raised, go to salute the Emperor and Augusta with their drawn swords in the imperial box hung with carpets in front of which burn incense: “Ave Cesar, morituri te salutant”. However, from the crowd of combatants, a group of soldiers has broken away and the legionnaires bind a young Christian to one of the crosses in the arena. Then slowly, the parade of soldiers and gladiators moves away. A few moments later, the big cats invade the circus, led by the trident of the imperial warrior armored in bronze and gold. The Lions! The Lions! Savage clamor thunders on all the steps of the circus and the thousands of chests of the people, greedy for carnage and blood, gasp with impatience. And while the Emperor, indifferent and brutal, contemplates his emerald, the lions ferociously throw themselves on the garrotted body of the martyr who, soon panting under the bite of the wild beasts, dies without a complaint, while the arid sand is tinged with blood. (translated from French - Pathé Freres)
Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel dans la fosse aux lions)
Daniel is exposed in the pit, under the sun, by order of Cyrus. Tied tightly to the terminal of the victims, the Hebrew prophet calmly awaits death, for the beasts prowl around him, held back however by a mysterious force. At that moment, the angel of the Lord appears. Extending his arm, he seems to bless Daniel and the divine Power loosens the chains that held the prophet. The apparition vanishes. Then Daniel, whose chains have fallen off, kneels down and addresses an ardent prayer to the Master of the world. Miracle! The lions have approached him and the prophet caresses them, while the wild beasts rub themselves voluptuously against him. At this moment, Cyrus, appears on the edge of the pit followed by some courtiers. He calls the prophet and he calmly opens the gate of his prison and goes up to the terraces. (translated from French - Pathé Freres)
Balthazar's Feast (Le Festin de Balthazar)
The king and the courtiers, crowned with flowers, dead drunk, wallow on the ground, stretched out on the heap of carpets and cushions, in the middle of the half-dressed courtesans whom they kiss and embrace. Suddenly, while all the characters fall asleep little by little, weighed down by the libations, the Monarch half rises on his bed of rest. Terrified, he sees on the tapestry, the terrible appearance of a hand which traces in letters of fire: MANE, THECEL, PHARES and falls back on his bed, annihilated by the deepest terror. At this moment, a thick smoke invades the palace; the gates crumble under the formidable thrust of the Persians, masters of Babylon. The soldiers led by Cyrus strike right and left, immolating the annihilated courtiers. The victors empty the still-full amphoras, tear off the hangings and the flowers, the palace catches fire on all sides, the vault collapses, and, in the indecision of the smoke, the murder, the rape, and the pillage continue their work of destruction. Devastation. (translated from French - Pathé Freres)
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Julien Simon - Gladiator
Lucien Nonguet - Director
Real lions and rare scenes

The earliest movie I've seen with real lions, although it seems a bit more like a circus act than a gladiator story. The Christian Martyr first part is very anonymous, but the part with the lion eating the man is actually quite amazingly done. To show the colosseum and persecution of Christians at the time, I suppose it does that with the limitations in the early film format. There is no real story. The second film, Daniel in the Lion's den, is a first in history and not often depicted - and it is pretty simple although it tells the story. Daniel is bound to a pole with lions, they do not touch him, and an angel comes and frees him from the chains. The third scene I was surprised to see as chosen for an early biblical film, the scene where "mene, mene, tekel, upharsin" is written in the wall to Belthazar - maybe it's chosen to keep within the book of Daniel? Anyway, all in all, it's an entertaining film from this age that is pretty well made even though it lacks in a lot of aspects. It's not longer than it needs to be, and the different color tints help divide the films into parts that belong together.