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.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Class of '54: The Silver Chalice

It been fun re-seeing anther 1954 favourite which made an impression on me as a kid: THE SILVER CHALICE,  best known now as Paul Newman's first role which he was so embarrassed about that he apologised publicly .... well Paul need not have worried, he is the least interesting thing here, as the film is stolen by Jack Palance and Virginia Mayo as Simon the magician and his assistant Helena - Paul's lost love, played when young by Natalie Wood in a blonde wig! Pier Angeli completes the lineup as the dutiful love interest of Newman, as Basil the sculptor.
A Greek artisan is commissioned to cast the cup of Christ in silver and sculpt around its rim the faces of the disciples and Jesus himself. He travels to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome to complete the task. Meanwhile, a nefarious interloper is trying to convince the crowds that he is the new Messiah by using nothing more than cheap parlor tricks.

Natalie Wood becomes Virginia Mayo
The 1950s was, for me, the great decade of musicals and westerns and epics/peplums or costume dramas, whether biblical or medieval, starting with QUO VADIS and THE ROBE and ULYSSES. 1954 was full of them: DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS, THE EGYPTIAN, KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS, THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH, ATTILA, TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA, PRINCE VALIANT, SIGN OF THE PAGAN, PRINCESS OF THE NILE and yes, THE SILVER CHALICE
(1955 delivered THE PRODIGAL LAND OF THE PHAROAHS,  HELEN OF TROY, MOONFLEET and QUENTIN DURWARD while 1956 had Cecil's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (we had a school outing to see that...), ALEXANDER THE GREAT, WAR AND PEACE, then THE VIKINGS in 1958 and those biggies in 1959: BEN HUR and SOLOMON AND SHEBA, plus THE BIG FISHERMAN, THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES and those Steve Reeves movies, and the Sixties dawned with SPARTACUS followed by EL CID, BARABBASCLEOPATRA, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, GENGHIS KHAN ... Visconti's 1963 THE LEOPARD is an epic too. Lots of these are covered at epics, peplums labels.
THE SILVER CHALICE is the oddest of the lot, with those surreal sets. Jack Palace is in his element as the mad magician who thinks he can fly with that great climax as he climbs the tower to fly off it .... as Helena tries in vain to stop him .... Mayo is great here with that odd eye make-up, a petulant Nero then has her thrown off the tower to see if she can fly. This entertaining farrago is a riot now, directed by Victor Saville - a long way from those 1930s Jessie Matthews musicals. 
Palance also scored in '54 as Attila The Hun in Sirk's entertaining SIGN OF THE PAGAN (while Anthony Quinn in Italy was also a ferocious Attila in ATTILA with young Sophia Loren); Virginia Mayo also amused that year as the Plantagenet princess wooed by Saladin (Rex Harrison) in the enjoyable farrago that is KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS


  1. I've never seen it nor have I ever wanted to see it and you haven't made me want to see it but I know you are a sucker for men in togas and toeless sandals and as our beloved Miss Brodie would say "For those who like that sort of thing, that's the sort of thing they like".

  2. How awful to be too lofty to enjoy a jolly good biblical romp which is so bad its great, but then of course you only see "important" films.

  3. Bugger off! Didn't I just watch Kit Harrington (no, he didn't get his kit off) in POMPEII yesterday and liked it a lot but then of course you only like beefy Steve Reeves films :)