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Sunday, November 21, 2010


This deluxe indie entry in the WideScreen craze for biblical epics is largely known for three things: it was the last film helmed by King Vidor; Tyrone Power died during production; and Yul Brynner took over the role with a snazzy rug on his famous shaved head. This has always made the film sound a bit cheesy, but viewed alongside similar titanic efforts in the form by Vidor’s peers (Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz, Henry King, Henry Koster, Robert Rossen, Howard Hawks, et al.), it’s tastier than expected. Oh, there are plenty of howlers in the script, Solomon almost cuts that famous baby in half, the interiors look like a Las Vegas synagogue, the costumes are Kodachrome colorful and there’s even an orgy to ogle. But Yul, George Sanders & Gina Lollabrigida and the rest of the cast are all better than you expect, and the story has a fast-moving swing to it. But what really makes this one stand out is Freddie Young’s spectacular location lensing, especially of the battle scenes. Shot in Super Technirama 70, the crystal clear sharpness of the warring hordes and the trick shot catastrophe for Pharaoh’s army are jawdroppers. Young’s legendary work on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA/’62 is prophesied right here. But the timing couldn’t have been worse for S&S since 1959 was also the year of William Wyler’s BEN-HUR which was a game-changer for the genre.

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