Friday, April 1, 2016

Retro Friday : King of Kings vs The Greatest Story Ever Told

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on April 27, 2011)

We're still in Easter week. Here's a quick rundown of the two big Jesus films of the 1960s :

King of Kings

- Jeffrey Hunter near brilliant as Jesus

- Robert Ryan totally miscast as John the Baptist

- Siobhan McKenna wasn't convincing as Mary

- Narration was obtrusive

- Intro was super long. 20+ minutes to get story going

- Very episodic script

- Because of narration and quick rundown of story, the film felt like bible studies

- Location didn't look like Israel/Middle East. It looked like, well, Spain where it was shot.

- Fantastic score by Miklós Rózsa

- Ending at the beach fell flat

- Studio-bound and looksHollywood-ish from time to time

- Some beautiful sets and production design

- A bit of a heavy-handedness to it

The Greatest Story Ever Told

- Max Von Sydow totally miscast as Jesus; his voice alone doesn't work

- Claude Rains totally miscast as Herod the Great

- Charlton Heston sounds better than Robert Ryan as John the Baptist but looks ridiculous in fake looking wig and beard

- Almost entire cast is miscast: Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate?

- Constant use of cameos are terrible; with John Wayne's being the worst

- Narration wasn't obtrusive

- Stunning production design

- Stunning cinematography

- Beautiful, realistic locations

- Direction more fluid and organic

- More realistic looking

- Music score is good but film employs classical music which was beautifully incorporated with story

- Relies on classical music and Michelangelo's paintings to set up scene so a bit of laziness in direction here

- Ending has more impact than King of Kings but still sorta flat

All in all, it's a virtual tie with The Greatest Story Ever Told edging out King of Kings because of stunning production design/cinematography, etc. Now if they combined the best qualities from both films then there would be the perfect film: King of the Greatest Story Ever Told! Posted at the Special Features page.


Scott Ochiltree said...

DeMille's silent 1927 "King of Kings" is by far the best movie with that title.

One simply cannot beat the master showman, who was in top form in Hollywood for many decades.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

We had a great Peplum Easter here in the UK - BEN HUR (of course), THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (I love every silly minute of it), SAMSON & DELILAH (that great ending as George Sanders raises his goblet to toast Delilah as the temple falls around them...), and yes KING OF KINGS and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. This latter one is certainly ponderous but as you say has great locations and cinematography and it looks different to other biblicals, being shot in the USA deserts (Arizona?). Very eclectic cast as has KING OF KINGS, I think Claude Rains is terrific here as the aged Herod, with those evil glittering eyes of his ... LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and this must have been his final roles.