Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

1954 in Ancient Egypt and Rome ...

THE EGYPTIAN, 1954. Another biblical from that great era for them – 1953 saw the first CinemaScope one, THE ROBE, and 1954 quickly followed with DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATOR, KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSASERS, THE SILVER CHALICE, SIGN OF THE PAGAN, PRINCE VALIANT, BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH, ATILLA, etc. THE EGYPTIAN seemed to get rather overlooked but was a fond memory, it and Hawks’ LAND OF THE PHAROAHS gave us that Egyptian vibe until Cecil’s TEN COMMANDMENTS was unleashed in 1956 -we had a school outing to that!  - see epics/peplums labels for more on those.

A new Spanish dvd features a terrific transfer of THE EGYPTIAN, showcasing Leon Shamroy’s great photograpy, the score is by two veterans:  Bernard Herrmann and  Alfred Newman (did they work in tandem or score different scenes individually?) and Michael Curtiz as ever keeps it all moving at a nice pace. It all looks marvellous as we follow Sinuhe as he tells his story, when old and we go back to the fantastic story he has to tell, from when he was found in a reed boat on the river – he too turns out to be the real Pharoah, though grew up to be a doctor. Edmund Purdom is Sinuhe and he too falls for a heartless vamp, as he did in THE PRODIGAL in 1955 – that though was Lana Turner, here it is Bella Darvi, a ‘protégé’ of Darryl Zanuck’s. She takes everything Sinuhe has, including his parent’s house and tomb and then he is cast out. Only Jean Simmons as Merit loves him and waits, while wily Peter Ustinov decides to be his slave (Ustinov of course also scores in QUO VADIS and SPARTACUS)…. Back at the court the new pharaoh Akhnaton (Michael Wilding) and his cult of worshipping the sun is causing problems, as his sister Gene Tierney plots with Sinuhe’s friend Victor Mature to seize the throne. She wants Sinuhe to join her, but has to settle for Vic. This is all splendid tosh, with great production values. Henry Daniell and John Carradine also feature in the large cast. Judith Evelyn scores too as the mother who put the baby in the boat … 

DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS. Like KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS (reviewed recently), DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS is another slab of 1954 biblical/costume drama in the new CinemaScope format, and is equally turgid, apart from some amusing camp moments, as Delmar Daves fills the wide screen but keeps everything in medium and long shot so it all unfolds like a pageant.  
I love those early ‘50s biblicals and costumers but somehow never liked THE ROBE, and this is more of the same, as it begins with Burton and Simmons going to their better place. Jay Robinson continues his one-note annoying portrayal of Caligula as a shrieking madman, while Barry Jones is hilariously wrong as Claudius (no stammer here)  with Susan Hayward as his wayward wife Messalina, again her about-face at the end is hilariously totally wrong, but who sees tosh like this for historical accuracy. 
Add in Victor Mature as Demetrius, Michael Rennie as Peter, Ernrest Borgnine as Strabo, Richard Egan and Ed Fury as gladiators, Anne Bancroft as one of the girls who consort with the doomed warriors and Debra Paget as the pure girl who comes into the gladiators’ den looking for Demetrius …. who dallies with Messalina when he thinks Debra is dead, but there is a surprise in store. Enjoyable tosh from that great era. Left: Susan with muscle boy Ed Fury, a gladiator. Back to 1954 again soon, with that real lulu: THE SILVER CHALICE.

1 comment:

  1. did you find that photo of Susan Hayward and Ed Fury?