Nicolas Ray Centennial: King of Kings, The (1961) B+
The life of Jesus Christ is chronicled in this intelligent and gripping picture, directed by Nicholas Ray toward the end of his Hollywood career.
Samuel Bronson, the legendary producer of El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire, and Nicholas ray, the director of Rebel Without a Cause and 55 Days at Peking, team for this powerful, moving tale of the life of Christ that’s rich in scale, set against the tumult of Roman occupation and filled with notable performances by Jeffrey Hunter (Jesus), Rip Torn (Judas), Harry Guardino (Barabbas) and others.
From the Nazarene’s humble birth to his nomadic ministry, from the teachings to murderous conspiracies, from death on a cross to resurrection — key events of 33 years that changed the world are here. An epic that both entertains and ennobles, King of Kings wears its crown with reverence and strength. Ray achieves the right balance between exterior scenes of the stunning landscape and interior ones, which convey the more intimate interaction between the characters in a dramatically compelling way.
The narration, written by the uncredited novelist ray Bradbury, is voiced impressively by Orson Welles in his unmistakable voice, adding gravitas 9and prestige) to the epic. Though he has made several good movies before, including John Ford’s The Searchers in 1956, Jeffrey Hunter was considered to be just a pretty face. But in this film, he’s well cast, renering a dramatically effective performance.
So is the incredibly versatile Robert Ryan (mostly known for film noir), who’s cast as John. The film has so many merits that you tend to overlook the excessive performance of Hurd hatfield as Pontius Pilate.
Known for his good eye for casting, Ray populated his film with first-rate actos in secondary roles, including Royal dano, Harry Guardino as Barabbas, Rip Torn as judas, and Viveca Lindfors as Claudia.
• Vintage Featurette: The Camera’s Window of the World
• King of Kings – Impressive Premiere on Two Coasts
• King of Kings: Egyptian Theater Premiere, Hollywood, CA
• Audio: English, French
• Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Latin Spanish
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