May 26, 2022 | Rome, Italy

King of Kings

By | 2018-03-21T18:30:15+01:00 February 2nd, 2005|Reviews|


Date: 1961

Director: Nicholas Ray

Starring: Jeffrey Hunter, Rip Torn, Robert Ryan, Brigid Bazlen

Of the many biblical epics Hollywood produced in the 1950s and 60s, this is most curious and very probably the best. Rip Torn as Judas? Absolutely. Director Nicholas Ray (“Rebel Without a Cause”) goes for Jesus’ words, not his special effects-inducing miracles. To do this, he casts wildly out of type. His Jesus is Jeffrey Hunter, a hot boy-toy of his time. But Hunter hunkers down. He’s still and sullen, time again urging his followers not to admire him but to listen to his words — a director’s game-within-a-game given Hunter’s golden looks.

The Sermon on the Mount, in which Ray’s Jesus refuses calls to the supernatural but wins followers almost head-by-head, is beautifully handled, assisted by Miklos Rosza’s memorable score. Other striking choices were Brigid Bazlen as Salome, a 16-year-old actor that Ray turned into a kind of ancient biker girl. But it’s against-the-grain Hunter, who died at eight years later at 43 of a stroke, who seizes the film wholesale and takes up mystic residence.

About the Author:

Hong Kong based David Trask is a longtime freelance movie reviewer.

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