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The King of Kings - Criterion Collection
The King of Kings - Criterion Collection
Actors: H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming, Ernest Torrence, Joseph Schildkraut, James Neill
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama
NR     2004     4hr 27min

With this silent-era spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille cemented his reputation as the master of the biblical epic. DeMille tells the story of Christ's life and Passion with great attention to historical accuracy, along the way p...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming, Ernest Torrence, Joseph Schildkraut, James Neill
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Creators: J. Peverell Marley, Cecil B. DeMille, Anne Bauchens, Harold McLernon, Jeanie Macpherson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Silent Films, Religion
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 12/07/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 4hr 27min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 15
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A cinematic masterpiece and true blessing to all Christians
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 02/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Calling The King of Kings a cinematic masterpiece barely begins to do it justice, and this Criterion Collection release is absolutely beautiful, turning the widespread notion of silent movies completely on its head. This print looks like it could have been made yesterday, not 1927, boasting some incredible special effects for its time. Cecil B. DeMille was a genius who helped turn moviemaking into an art form. With The King of Kings, he also retold the story of Jesus Christ in a serious and emotionally powerful way that has effectively helped spread the Gospel for over seventy-five years. This Criterion Collection release is itself a heavenly release that gives viewers the chance to own the film in its original, uncut form for the first time.

While DeMille's film is a reverent retelling of life and heavenly mission of Jesus, it does take some liberties with the Gospel accounts, sometimes combining different events into one and introducing several of its own elements in an attempt to emphasize the linear nature and importance of the story. Mark, for example, is presented as a child healed by Jesus who is there to witness the ministry and ultimate sacrifice of Christ. Judas Iscariot is constantly shoved to the forefront of events, heavily emphasizing his misinterpretation of the Messiah's mission and ultimate betrayal of Jesus. He is depicted as a selfish and ruthless man who only joined Jesus' band of followers because he expected to be made a great man in the traditional kingdom he expected Jesus to found on earth. Most interestingly, Mary Magdalene is depicted as a consort to Judas who first comes to Jesus in order to confront Him for having stolen Judas' attention away from her. The film also shows Judas witnessing the events his kiss of betrayal set in motion, hanging himself only after witnessing Jesus' death on the cross.

The film begins strangely, with an extended scene of Mary Magdalene living lavishly among a group of male admirers and then zooming out on her zebra-driven chariot to steal her man Judas back from Jesus. As for Jesus, His first appearance could not be more beautifully done, as we first see His face through the eyes of an adorable blind girl as she is healed by the Master. H.B. Warner looks a little too old to be playing Jesus, but he gives a masterful performance, one heightened by the constant aura of slight luminescence DeMille gives him throughout the film. One of the most memorable scenes is the release of the seven demons from Mary Magdalene - the special effects are just incredible and seemingly decades ahead of their time. Speaking of incredible special effects, one has to mention the earthquake scene that follows Jesus' death on the cross - again, it's just incredible to watch. The resurrection scene is also memorable for the Technicolor aspects DeMille gave it to emphasize the awe-inspiring magnificence of Jesus' victory over death.

The 1928 general release of The King of Kings was 112 minutes long, but the film that first debuted at the opening of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1927 was 155 minutes. Both versions of the film are included in this set, and I must say the original, uncut version of the film, rarely seen by the public over the decades, is the definitive version presenting a much richer, detailed account of Jesus' ministry. This Criterion Collection release boasts a number of extras, including new film scores alongside the originals, documentary materials on the making of the film and its reception by the public, trailers, portrait galleries, and a 40-page commemorative booklet on this Biblical masterpiece. Have I mentioned how pristine the digital transfer is? This film looks better than many films I've seen from the 1970s and 1980s.

Christians will be awe-struck and inspired by the wonderful message of The King of Kings, but no one can watch this film and not be impressed by the cinematic artistry and genius on full display. This is easily the most impressive silent movie I have ever seen."
E. Hunter Hale | Salt Lake City, UT | 11/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Having just seen an advance copy of the two disc DVD set of Criterions release for Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 THE KING OF KINGS, I can tell you that you don't know just how great this film is until you have seen the uncut 155-minute roadshow version as first shown at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in LA and the Gaiety Theatre in New York.

Running 37-minutes longer then the fine 1928 shorter version (also included in this set with the original Hugo Riesenfeld score and sound effects as released in 1928, and an excellent newly recorded pipe organ score by Timothy J. Tikker), this is a marvel to experience! Beautifully preserved by the DeMille family, it has been transferred complete with two Technicolor sequences (rather then just one as we are used to seeing), and it has an outstanding orchestra score by Donald Sosin, that adds a new dimension to the film.

THE KING OF KINGS in its longer version is a far greater film then it ever was in its shorter form. This is easily the finest rendering of the Life of Christ ever put on film. A reviewer for The Saturday Evening Post (1927) correctly stated that:
"DeMille has achieved a masterpiece...a picture that is worth more than all the sermons ever preached. It is Spirit, on the screen."

The Criterion Collection DVD release includes 2-versions of the film with three music tracks, a wealth of "Extras", including almost 15 minutes of wonderful behind-the-scenes on the set footage, reproductions of press books, the theatrical program, a trailer for the NY run of the film, stills, sketches, and a booklet.

This is the finest DVD to date on a silent classic, even surpassing Fox's excellent job on F.W. Murnau's SUNRISE. This is a MUST HAVE DVD!"
The first, most notable version of the Christ up to 1977
S. Lyons | Pleasantville, USA | 03/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Imagine seeing this film, in a small theatre with folding chairs, at the age of seven, or six. It was around 1968, during the Christian season of Lent. This imaginative little boy believed that, since it was a silent film, and silent films were made in the olden days, this film must've been shot starring the actual Jesus and his disciples. Now, over thirty years later, I saw this spectacu- lar again, with a live organ accompaniment in San Diego. If one is either a film buff, a DeMille fan, a Christian, or a seeker, buy this video. CB DeMille uses drama, lighting, action, and sets with "reverent" (the oft-used adjective for this movie) restraint and artfulness. This film is also a lesson in itself of premiere silent acting style, early (and believeable) special effects, and wonderful scoring. This home video version also features sound effects and the legendary technicolour sequence of the Resurrection morning. This Jesus movie is surpassed ONLY by Zefirelli's 6-hour opus (trimmed from a reputed 12 hours) miniseries "Jesus Of Nazareth". Buy them both."
MUST HAVE for Silent Movie Fans and Christian Movie Fans!
Bryan E. Leed | Dayton, OH USA | 08/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The picture quality is a real treat for a silent movie! They have done a terrific job of making this movie look good on DVD! This is a must-have movie for any silent film buff, or for Christians who like seeing Bible stories on DVD.

Scripturally speaking, the movie leaves out the story of the birth of Jesus, as well as ignores the existence of John the Baptist, the cousin and proclaimer of the coming messiah, Jesus.

The worst liberty taken by the filmmakers was coming up with a strange origin of Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ. Supposedly, Magdalene is a high class floozy who becomes jealous upon hearing the news that her buddy Judas Iscariot is not hanging out with her lately because he is following Jesus around the countryside. So Magdalene sets out to win back her buddy, Judas, because no lowly commoner preacher is any match for Magdalene. This is a strange storyline, but also this is the worst liberty taken with the Gospel story. Thankfully, though it opens the film, this plotline is dropped early on.

I really liked seeing some scenes that I haven't seen in other Bible DVDs before. They do a very clever special effect of Mary Magdalene being cleansed of seven demons (this is scripturally accurate), and they even make the seven demons correspond to the Seven Deadly Sins, which are NOT listed in the Bible together, but it is still a nice twist, and unoffensive to the integrity of the Bible text.

I also liked seeing the scene when Jesus tells Peter to pay their taxes by getting the money out of the mouth of a fish!

This film is one of the most famous Bible movies ever made, though largely forgotten by modern audiences, since it is a silent film. For its day, it was the equivalent of the blockbuster status of "THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST."

This is the best silent era Bible DVD that I have seen or purchased. This is better than Cecil B. DeMille's silent "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS," though DeMille's 1950's version of "THE TEN COMMNDMENTS" is more entertaining and influential, as far as movies are concerned.

There is another silent movie DVD available, "The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ / From the Manger to the Cross (1905)" which is even MORE primitive in its cinema techniques. This one is interesting because it is the oldest Bible stories made available on DVD.

The best Jesus story on DVD is "JESUS OF NAZARETH" (1977), which is a 6 hour TV mini-series that covers tons of scripture. Though it is not perfect, it is the most in-depth, overall best telling of the life of Jesus, available on DVD!

If you have been thinking about buying this movie, I know how you feel. I have wanted it for a long time, but was put off by the premium price. Rest assured that it will be worth the money, if you have cared enough to consider buying it in the first place. I can highly recommend this film."