Katherine of Alexandria lives! We investigate the first trailer

Well, this is interesting. The first trailer for Katherine of Alexandria – a high budget indie film about the 4th century saint who was martyred at the hands of Maxentius, the last pagan Emperor of Rome – has just appeared online, and it looks like quite the romp. We wouldn’t normally give this much attention to a simple trailer review (particularly one of a film that we’d never heard of before half an hour ago), but there are quite a few things we’d like to discuss about St Katie and her adventures. Walk with us.

Starring eight time Oscar nominee Peter O’Toole alongside Joss Ackland, Steven Berkoff and Edward Fox as Emperor Constantius (obscure French actor Julien Vialon is playing Maxentius, arguably the more important emperor where this story is concerned), and introducing newcomer Nicole Keniheart as the ill-fated saint herself, Katherine of Alexandria has certainly got everything going for it in the cast stakes. First time writer-director Michael Redwood worked with the late Tony Scott in the 1980s on films including Romancing the Stone and Out of Africa, and has been researching Katherine of Alexandria for an extraordinary sixteen years – time enough for every cell in his body to have been replaced two and a bit times. That’s dedication. And since you’ve read this far on a gloomy Monday, why don’t we pause to watch the trailer?

Okay, first impressions: Katherine of Alexandria looks like a three-way combination of the frenetic visual style of modern thrillers, the declamation and posturing of classic British sword-and-sandal films and the vaguely lefty historical revisionism most recently displayed in Ridley Scott’s nonsensical Robin Hood. It’s got Gladiator‘s flashy political intrigue, Braveheart‘s incessant quacking about freedom for the oiks and HELLO, PETER O’TOOLE WAS LITERALLY IN CALIGULA. See?

Now that’s an entrance. O’Toole will clearly be his normal marvellous self (in, reportedly, one of his last roles before a well-earned retirement), and the other heavyweight cast members all look promising from what little we can see. We’re thrilled to see Steven Berkoff appearing in something that doesn’t make us want to throw up our teeth (oh hi, The Tourist), and Edward Fox is rocking an excellent fur collar in the one shot of him in the whole trailer. Fur, in Egypt – those Romans were proper nutty. Who even knew Edward Fox was still working, by the way? The last time we can remember seeing him in anything was The Importance of Being Earnest – Best For Film’s theory has always been that he’s now working at some sort of RADA stud farm, siring the next generation of great British actors on an endless procession of pliant starlets.

Since about a third of the cast appear to be emperor at some point in the trailer, we’re quite interested to see how well Redwood’s claims of historical accuracy stand up to a thorough investigation. The rookie director has the unenviable job of making sense of the chaos that was more or less engulfing Europe around the time St Catherine was hanging out and being all pious (she rocked up just after the Crisis of the Third Century, which was exactly as bad as it sounds). Fortunately, you’re in the right place to find out if he should be awarded a BFF Triumph or subjected to the fustuarium supplicium – that’s being cudgelled to death – since Best For Film has just become the first film site in the world to appoint a dedicated Ancient Rome columnist! Look out for her first article later this week.

Forgetting the old white men and their power struggles for a moment, however, we’re most interested to see what Keniheart makes of the role of Katherine. Apparently this is the first time the saint’s story has been committed to film; so not only are there no precedents for the actress to lean on, but two billion Christians will be watching with interest. And never more so than today, because – despite being abolished for thirty-three years – November 25th is her official feast day. Happy feast day, St Catherine! Sorry about that time you were tortured and beheaded. (Spoilers.)

What do you make of the trailer for Katherine of Alexandria? Are you worried that, like the hundreds of people who visited Catherine while she was imprisoned, you’ll be spontaneously converted to Christianity when you see the whole film? Us too.

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