King of Kings
Studio: Warner Bros. (MGM)
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
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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