"'King of Kings' features Jeffrey Hunter's finest performance, as a young, dynamic Jesus of Nazareth, and his intrerpretation, open and earnest, is the best part of a movie both uneven and flawed.Produced by many of the people responsible for 'Ben Hur', the film utilizes some of the same sets, actors (Frank Thring appears in major roles in both films), and composer (Miklos Rozsa, whose score for 'King of Kings' was one of his finest). The cast was fleshed out by respected actors (Robert Ryan is too old but charismatic as John the Baptist, Siobhan McKenna is a glowing Mary, Brigid Bazlen, a deliciously wicked and oversexed Salome, Harry Guardino, an 'over-the-top' Barabbas, a VERY young Rip Torn scores as Judas). While the cast didn't have the 'star power' of 'Ben Hur', or many other Christian epics, the actors, by and large, perform credibly in their roles, particularly Hurd Hatfield and Viveca Lindfors, as Pilate and his wife, Claudia, and Ron Randell as Tribune Lucius.The film was a MUCH less expensive project than 'Ben Hur'; the budget restraints show most glaringly in recreating Jesus' ministry (most of Christ's miracles are only referred to, not shown), and extras casting (Spanish townspeople, overdubbed with some truly RIPE dialogue!).The film works best when focusing on Jesus; unfortunately, it veers off into distracting subplots about Barabbas and the zealots, and the decadence of Herod's court. These stories consume a LOT of screen time, and damage the overall impact of the film.Yet rising above all this is Jeffrey Hunter's interpretation of the Savior. Easily the most audience-friendly of all the actors who have assailed the role, Hunter took a lot of flack for his 'matinee idol' good looks, and piercing blue eyes, but his kindness, his sincerity, and the complete believability with which he delivers Christ's words overcome any qualms about his appearance! The Sermon on the Mount is a film high point, and magnificent; the Crucifixion and Resurrection have the kind of power that can bring a lump to your throat, even after repeated viewings!While 'King of Kings' lacks the big names and budget of 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', or the emotional core of 'Jesus of Nazareth' or 'The Last Temptation of Christ', in Jeffrey Hunter, the film presents possibly the most compassionate of all screen Messiahs, and makes this film a MUST for the holidays, and your collection!"
An intelligent, inspiring life of Christ.
(5 out of 5 stars)
""King of Kings" was my favorite religious motion picture when growing up, and I believe it still is. When MGM first released it in 1961, movie critics irreverently dubbed it "I Was a Teenage Jesus", since the role of Christ was given to teen idol Jeffrey Hunter. In hindsight, it was an unfair appraisal. Unlike other actors who have played Jesus in the more sublime, "stained-glass" manner that appears to be the norm, Hunter's portrayal showed a very human, energetic Messiah whose divinity still could not be denied. Interestingly enough, "King of Kings" was directed by Nicholas Ray, who six years earlier had directed James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause". This time around, our "Rebel" has a well-defined Cause which places Him at odds with the religious and civil authorities of His day. The film's international supporting cast consists mainly of lesser-known character actors whose performances are mostly able. The great actor/filmmaker Orson Welles gives an uncredited performance as the film's narrator; curiously, the narration was written by science fiction author Ray Bradbury, who is also uncredited. The film's stirring music was composed by Miklos Rozsa, who was no stranger to religious epics (the soundtracks to "Quo Vadis?" and "Ben-Hur" stand out among his other works). Beautifully filmed in Spain, "King of Kings" is an intelligent and reverent profile of He who has been the Way, the Truth, and the Life to hundreds of millions for almost 2000 years. END"
Slow but Interesting
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 07/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""King of Kings" is somewhat tame compared to many other films on the life of Jesus, but is still nevertheless well worth watching. It does not have the grandeur and visual beauty of the George Stevens "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), or the intensity of the silent Cecil B. DeMille "King of Kings" (1927) that it is supposed to be based on, but it is always reverential towards its subject matter, even if at a rather slow pace. Many of the events told in the Gospels are simply read, rather than depicted, and this job goes to a Roman named Lucius (well played by Ron Randell), and the magnificent voice of Orson Welles as narrator. There is also a fair amount of extraneous material in trying to describe the political climate of the time, and to expand on the life of Jesus.
Jeffrey Hunter, an underrated actor during his short lifetime and handful of films, is a handsome Jesus, with crystal blue eyes, and is very effective in the temptation in the desert, and the Sermon on the Mount. His youthful good looks made some people nickname this film "I Was a Teenage Jesus," even though Hunter was in his mid 30s at the time. Others in the cast are Siobhan McKenna as Mary, Harry Guardino as Barrabas, Rip Torn as Judas, and Hurd Hatfield as Pontius Pilate. Robert Ryan makes a good, grizzled John the Baptist, and of all the film Salomes, Brigid Bazlen is the best. Her voluptuous seduction of a drunken, lascivious Herod (Frank Thring) is terrific storytelling and quite believable.
Directed by Nicholas Ray, the film has a grand score by Miklos Rozsa, and the cinematography, shot on location in Spain, is by Manuel Berenguer. In my extensive "Jesus" film collection, this is the one I play the least, but it has value in many of its performances, and as a comparison to other films of this theme. Total running time is 170 minutes. "
Hollywood's Best Jesus Movie
informednow | cleveland, oh | 12/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this when I was young and was thrilled to find it out on DVD. I believe this is Hollywood's best portrayal of Christ despite some innaccuracies. Jeffery Hunter did an awesome job of acting, giving us a dignified, majestic, powerful version of Christ. His piercing blue Angelo-Saxon eyes (much criticized over the years) are key to conveying an other-wordly demeanor about Christ, even if they are historically inaccurate, and who cares? The scenery is lush with many extras and costumes; there is much drama and spectacle without the use of computerized graphics. The acting is all well done and the casting perfect. I must comment on the music, also. It is spectacular, well worth an Oscar in my opinion."
The political life of Christ
k2 | Cleveland, OH USA | 09/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here is the life of Christ depicted in the political climate in which He appeared. In fact, the first few minutes of the film will make you wonder if you are watching the right movie, as it reviews the Roman invasion of Judea. The Romans, the family of Herod, the Sanhedrin and Barabbas with his Zealots all play roles in the trajedy.
Samuel Bronston, a producer whose production center was located outside of Madrid, envisioned a shorter movie along the artistic lines of "The Gospel According to St. Matthew," simple and reverent. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer saw the movie as a threat to its' current blockbuster hit, "Ben-Hur." Bronston needed some additional financial backing and MGM stepped in, so that the release could be delayed until after "Ben-Hur" was finished with its' usual one year playing engagement. At the same time, the tremendous audience response to the spectacle of "Ben-Hur" convinced MGM to expand the film and make it more spectacular. At least an additional 45 minutes was tacked on the planned running time.
I find the film a great success. By giving us the political milieu, it provides us a different slant on the well-known story and invokes interest with sub-plots.
Jeffrey Hunter took a lot of unnecessary abuse for his portrayal. This was the first portrayal of Jesus by an actor who was around the same age as Christ during the events, but he was criticized as too young (???). His piercing blue eyes added a sharp edge to his appearance, making him symbolically stand out as unique. He depicted an accessible Jesus. This was certainly in evidence during the Sermon on the Mount scene. In no other movie, I feel, does Jesus come down off the lofty pedestal and talk directly to you. The Sermon on the Mount scene starts with the Beatitudes but becomes a conversation between the audience and Jesus, at times, questioning Him directly on who He really is. Here, Jesus becomes human, and it is thanks to Jeffrey Hunter's heartfelt performance. To contrast the human element is some of the most incredibly moving miracles ever filmed, establishing his Divinity. The healing of the crippled boy never fails to elicit a tear.
The other performances are just as good. The political and action sequences around the sacred story are interesting and exciting. The sets and the photography are appropriate for the spectacle but not terribly overdone. And, last but not least, is Miklos Rozsa's incredible music score, one of his best.
Although lambasted when it first appeared during the media backlash against spectacles (although the audience disproved the critics by making this one of the best grossing films of the year), this film gains in reputation as the years move on. One of my personal favorites! We need this on DVD!"