Two great biblical epics
k2 | Cleveland, OH USA | 10/21/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First, "The Bible," another one of those very underrated epics of the mid-60's. Dino de Laurentiis and John Huston went against the Hollywood grain of rich spectacle and created a minimalist design for the first 22 chapters of Genesis. As with most films that are based strictly on the Bible accounts, the story obviously has no surprises, therefore any suspense is always missing. But the unique, spare, simple design, beautiful photography and excellent music score by Toshiro Mayuzumi place this film in a different category than most biblical epics. The audacity to make such a film is something that is rarely seen in today's moviemaking. Sadly, the DVD does not contain anything other than a trailer. Most of the people involved with the film have passed away.
Second, "The Robe," the first film in CinemaScope. As being the first film in CinemaScope, the first single camera widescreen process, it already stakes a claim in film history. But the film is much better than an exploitation of a technical process. Based on the novel by Lloyd Douglas, its' centerpiece is the Oscar-nominated bravura performance by Richard Burton. He single-handedly raises the film out of its tendency to become too cloying at times and turns it into the intense psychological drama it really is. He is very ably assisted by Victor Mature, another under-rated excellent actor, as his slave, Demetrius. And of course, you have the incredibly famous, over-the-top, but oddly fitting, performance by Jay Robinson as the deranged emperor. This film does have one of those magic moments in motion pictures which raises goosebumps, when everything comes together perfectly in an incredible combination of story, performance, art direction and photography. It is at times like these when you become aware of the power of motion pictures. I do not need to tell you the actual scene. You will know it. Again, sadly, no extras are on this DVD other than a trailer. It would have been great to have a documentary on the invention of CinemaScope and the making of the film. But for those of you interested in collector items, the DVD box has a major blooper: the picture on the back of the box in the upper right corner is not a picture from "The Robe" but from "The Egyptian," which also starred Victor Mature (another DVD we are waiting for).
I would have rated this five stars if some documentaries were on these disks. Still, these are two great religious epics with diametrically opposed visual styles: "The Robe" with the traditional rich spectacle and "The Bible" with a minimalist artistic approach."
J W Snowball | Auckland 1007 New Zealand | 04/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just to add to the review by kkunkel who points out that a picture on the back of the DVD box for 'The Robe' is not from that film at all. The other two pictures which are from 'The Robe' are printed the wrong way round! Does anybody get round to check this sort of thing?"