HTF REVIEW: "King of Kings" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 10, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    King of Kings





    Studio: Warner Bros. (MGM)
    Year: 1961
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 171 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English and Spanish





    No matter what your religious beliefs, you can't
    deny that the life of Jesus Christ is indeed the
    greatest story ever told. The very first movie I
    ever saw that portrayed his life story was Jesus
    of Nazareth
    (Artisan DVD), a film that made such
    a powerful impression on me, thanks to the performance
    of Robert Powell, who managed to blend both the human
    and divine natures of Christ more effectively than
    any other actor had before.

    You can believe that I wasn't willingly up to
    watching King of Kings for the fact that I
    knew that no film could live up to the one I felt
    was the most definitive portrayal of the life of
    Christ.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    As a film, King of Kings is a sweeping
    monumental epic from writer/director Nicholas Ray
    (Rebel Without a Cause and 55 Days at Peking)
    who takes us through spectacular vistas and all
    the violence and human drama of Christ's life. It's
    all here -- his birth, his baptism, the sermon on
    the Mount, the crucifixion and resurrection. This
    entire story is glorified in a brilliant 70mm
    Technicolor film with uncredited narration by Orson
    Welles and a moving score by composer Miklos Roza.
    I should also mention that this 1961 film is a
    remake, originally done as a silent film by Cecil
    B. DeMille in 1927.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]


    Where I felt the movie failed was its selection of
    Jeffrey Hunter for the title role. Obviously selected
    for his good looks and piercing blue eyes (which
    are shown in closeups throughout the film), the actor
    didn't seem old enough or intelligent enough for
    the part. Of course, everyone has a different idea
    of what Jesus Christ looked or acted like and this
    will be the defining factor in your judgement of
    this film. I also felt that the movie lacked the
    flavor of its Palestine background. Though it was
    filmed in Spain, the locales look more like the
    California desert.

    Then there are questions about some of the
    inaccuracies in the film, mainly that Barabbas is
    portrayed as being a revolutionary instead of the
    thief he was. Also, the major role of Lucius
    (Ron Randell) does not exist anywhere in the Bible.


    How is the transfer?


    This DVD provides more than just the miracles of
    Jesus Christ. You'll be spiritually blown away
    by the this brand new digital transfer that is
    simply outstanding in every respect. This film
    is a Technicolor marvel to behold -- looking
    clean and magnificent. You'll marvel at the
    images that are sharp and detailed and colors
    that seem to be close to the vibrancy of the
    original Technicolor print. In fact, I dare say
    this is one of the most gorgeous Technicolor
    presentations I have seen on the format to date.
    There's no film grain - no film noise - and not
    a single color misrepresented here. In a word,
    this DVD looks "stunning."

    The newly remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack
    is quite impressive for what it does rather than
    what it doesn't do for this film. You won't hear
    any fancy effect noises thrown to the rear channels.
    What you will get is Orson Welles narration firmly
    placed in the center channel with extremely distinct
    stereo separation across the fronts. The audio
    soundtrack comes across with robust, full-bodied
    dynamics. Miklos Roza's epic and dashing film score
    dominates the front soundstage as the rears bring
    up the chorals. Though the score tries to evenly
    divide itself between the front and rear channels,
    the fronts often drown out the rears. The beats of
    drums provided a surprising amount of bass response.
    When taking in consideration of the age of this movie,
    the soundtrack is every bit as impressive as the
    visual transfer of this film.



    Special Features

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Cameras of the World is an interesting
    original B&W theatrical featurette on the Sermon
    on the Mount scene that was filmed on a Olive
    grove outside of Madrid, Spain. We watch as
    hundreds of extras are brought in on busses. As
    make-up is applied and final instructions are
    given to the cast, we watch director Nicholas
    Ray (under the watch of Samuel Bronston) roll his
    cameras as Jeffrey Hunter begins walking amongst
    the crowd. This is real neat to watch, despite the
    raw quality of the print.
    (length: approx. 4 minutes)

    King of Kings - Impressive Premiere on two
    coasts
    is an impressive newsreel that takes
    us to the 1961 NYC premiere on Broadway and the
    West Coast premiere on Hollywood Blvd. You'll see
    red carpet appearances by Jeffrey Hunter, Brigio
    Bazlen, Rita Gam and Ron Randell.
    (length: approx. 2 minutes)

    [​IMG]

    King of Kings - Egyptian Theater Premiere
    takes us to the famous Hollywood theater for a
    silent look (aided only by film's score) at the
    gala opening event that features Jeffrey Hunter
    and an appearance by Jimmy Durante.

    A Cast and Crew lists dozens of actors and
    crew, but does not offer the ability to click on
    any name for extensive filmography information.

    The film's original theatrical trailer is
    included here.


    Final Thoughts

    [​IMG]

    As far as epics go, King of Kings is
    breathtaking and majestic. It's grand entertainment,
    but certainly not nearly as exciting as watching
    The Ten Commandments. All in all, the film
    certainly ranks as one of the greatest biblical films
    ever made, and for that reason, I would not hesitate
    to recommend that it belong in every movie collection.


    Release Date: February 25, 2003


    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

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    What 70MM process was this film shot in?

    Shouldn't the proper ratio be 2.2:1 at least?

    The specs imply that this was mastered from 35MM printdown elements.
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    The film was shot in Super Technirama 70.

    Since I haven't seen the dvd yet, I can only tell you that the film's negative ratio was 2.20:1, but they used a 35mm print in 2.35:1 ratio.
     
  4. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    I didn't even know this was coming out on DVD. Jesus! [​IMG]

    On to the wishlist...
     
  5. Eric Paddon

    Eric Paddon Screenwriter

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    I didn't know this was coming out either, but thanks for the info on this! "King Of Kings" is never going to be as good as "Jesus Of Nazareth" and also is not as good as "The Greatest Story Ever Told" but it boats outstanding costumes, sets, cinematography and Miklos Rozsa's greatest score next to "Ben Hur". I can remember my frustration over the initial LD for leaving off the Overture/Entr'acte/Exit Music and how the second LD rectified that, but now I'll be happy to discard that for good!

    It's also significant that at last one of the Bronston epics of the early 60s is at last on DVD and I always thought given the Warner control that this would be the last to come out and not the first. Now that this hurdle's been cleared, bring on "El Cid," "55 Days At Peking", "Fall Of The Roman Empire" and "Circus World"!
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Eric,
    I disagree about "King of Kings" not being as good as "The Greatest Story Ever Told". I thought George Stevens did a mediocre job with that film and it is one of my least favorite biblical movies for it's many star cameos and being slightly overlong in my book.





    Crawdaddy
     
  7. Jaxon's Dad

    Jaxon's Dad Supporting Actor

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  8. Jussi Tarvainen

    Jussi Tarvainen Second Unit

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  9. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

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    You're giving directorial credit to the wrong man, Ron. It's Nicholas Ray, not Samuel Bronston (the producer) who directed King Of Kings as well as Rebel Without A Cause.

    King Of Kings remains an underrated and underappreciated biblical film and the best of the Jesus biographies. Though far from perfect, especially in its casting of the title role, Kings is certainly superior to the numbingly reverential Greatest Story and Saint Matthew, both of whom confuse boredom with artful movie making.
     
  10. Eric Paddon

    Eric Paddon Screenwriter

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    GSET is clunky in a number of spots (though I for one would love to see it in its longer version of over four hours that would fill some gaps in the narrative) but because it sticks closer to the actual text that in the end makes it better than King Of Kings by default from my standpoint. King Of Kings' worst error from an historic standpoint is having Pilate's wife be the daughter of Emperor Tiberius which has zero historical basis whatsoever.

    Barabbas is indeed described in three of the Gospels as taking part in the insurrection or rebellion. The film's license would be making him the ringleader of such a movement.
     
  11. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    In all fairness to Ron, Barabbas is also noted in the gospels as having stolen from the disciples' petty-cash supply (indicating that he was a less-than-nobel character even before the final betrayal)...

    dave
     
  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Barabbas is mentioned in several sources as being a bandit which is closer to being a thief than a revolutionary and particularly, a revolutionary leader.





    Crawdaddy
     
  13. Jaxon's Dad

    Jaxon's Dad Supporting Actor

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  14. Eric Paddon

    Eric Paddon Screenwriter

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    Three of the Gospels describe Barabbas as being part of the "insurrection" which can reasonably be inferred to be part of the Zealots. Only Matthew does not have this description describing him as a "notorious criminal".
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Yes, we kind of hijack this thread so to keep from editing several posts out of this thread let me just say that Barabbas's role as an insurrection leader was somewhat embellished and leave it at that.

    Sorry Ron back on topic in regard to your review.



    Crawdaddy
     
  16. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    This wasn't even on my radar, but those screen grabs are stunning!!! Onto the list it goes!!

    Ron, the studios really should be paying you commissions. [​IMG]
     
  17. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    I like "King of Kings," probably better than all the other versions of the story, despite its obvious failings and the unmistakable veneer of Hollywood sentiment. It presents a very modern take to the story (which is wildly diversive even among the gospels, admittedly written several generations later). In this movie, Jesus is seen as a political threat to the well-being of Palestine and Rome (the Judas/Barabbas conspiracy scenes are Hollywood inventions), and this was probably true of him, leading to his ultimate downfall. Jesus himself wasn't in the business of leading a revolution, and didn't worry about how his leadership position made him appear dangerous to the governing bodies -- he had other important matters to attend to. Perhaps he manipulated Judas into betraying him, for Jesus may have purposefully chosen to end his life as a martyr. This is presented quite splendidly in the movie.

    The movie is full of incident, and thus never boring, unlike "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and the acting is uniformly good (the only one I'm not terribly crazy about is Robert Ryan). Jeffrey Hunter is very pretty, but exactly the right age (Jesus was crucified at 33, the same age as Hunter when he made the movie) and he combines human kindness with dignity and reserve, basically pulling it off despite the temptation to ham it up. I think he does a great job and I'm happy to see the movie so beautifully rendered on DVD. I'll be getting it post haste.

    P.S. Hunter died young, age 42, from a brain hemorrage after he fell down in his house. He's a bit of a martyr himself.
     
  18. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    For those of you interested:

    http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/wide...iramaspecs.htm

    Tells you all you could possibly want to know about the wonders of the Technirama 35mm horizontal 8 perf format.

    The 70mm tag line was a great act of showman-ship but KoK was filmed in 35mm, albeit at a 2.25:1 ratio...

    Regards to all

    MA
     
  19. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    King of Kings was probably one of the Technirama films blown up to 70mm.
     
  20. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Not to pick nits here, but the observation that there is absolutely no film grain leads me to believe that there has been excessive digital cleanup. Doesn't Robert Harris chide us for wanting grain-free presentations of film?
     

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