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Saturday, September 17, 2011

SAMSON AND DELILAH (1996)

We set the bar ‘limbo low’ on biblical epics. Just keep down the giggle factor and we’ll watch the old tales again & again. That must have been the reasoning behind the series of oft-filmed Bible stories remade for TNT back in the mid-‘90s. On paper, the casts & creative teams look tempting, but the films are dull, faintly tasteful things; and they don’t stick in your mind the way a truly terribly version might. Helmer Nicolas Roeg was winding up his career, but he doesn’t phone it in, he’s really trying . . . he’s just no good at this sort of thing. He lined up a favorite scripter, Allan Scott from DON’T LOOK NOW/’73 and THE WITCHES/’90, but the big gestures, physical mayhem, primitive plots of revenge, pseudo-poetic talk, even the famous hair cut; they seem a bit embarrassed of the material. (So embarrassed, someone made a tiny 'jump-cut' just as Samson reveals the big secret to Delilah.) . As Samson, Eric Thal tries on grief-stricken dignity toward the end, but since his early athletic feats didn’t convince, it’s hard to feel much pity. Still, he’s a paragon of historically-informed behavioral acting next to the contemporary stylings of Dennis Hopper’s conflicted Philistine general and Elizabeth Hurley’s ‘Cover Girl’ Delilah. Anyway, who hires Diana Rigg for a SAMSON & DELILAH project and then casts her as Samson’s mother? Who cares if she’s 60 years old, it's still Emma Peel fer G_d's sake!

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