Sunday, November 27, 2005


As Biblical epics go, this one is too serious to be campy fun like Cecil B. DeMille's renowned films, and it's not "epic" enough to be compared to THE ROBE, so it winds up occupying a not terribly interesting middle ground. The narrative begins with King David (Gregory Peck) and the Israelites at war with the Ammonites. After a successful battle, David returns home, leaving his trusted captain Uriah (Kieron Moore) at the front; despite having a number of wives, David lusts for Uriah's wife Bathsheba (Susan Hayward) after he sees her bathing from his balcony. Soon they are in the midst of a heated affair and Bathsheba gets pregnant, which is a problem since her husband has been gone for over a year. Since the penalty for adultery is stoning the woman to death (the man appears to get away scot-free), David devises a plan to get Uriah back for at least one night so that her condition will not be suspicious. However, despite a kind of consciousness-raising talk from David about keeping his wife happy, Uriah instead spends the night sitting up and waiting for his next battleground orders. David then issues secret plans to have Uriah isolated in the forefront of the fighting so he'll be killed, then David can marry his widow. The plan works, but when sandstorms and drought hit Israel (and Bathsheba's baby dies soon after its delivery), holy man Nathan (Raymond Massey) interprets the events as signs of God's displeasure with David's sins, and the people rise up to demand the death of Bathsheba. In the climax, David spends a dark night of the soul communing with God before the Ark of the Covenant, and we see flashbacks to some of his legendary deeds, including the defeat of Goliath. Finally, David leans forward to touch the sacred Ark--an act that we have seen can cause death--and instead of David being struck down, drenching rains bring an end to Israel's suffering, and David and Bathsheba live happily ever after, one assumes. Peck is handsome and, when he appears toward the end in a scruffy beard and sackcloth, he's actually kinda sexy. Hayward is appealing, Massey has an appropriate fire-and-brimstone attitude, and Jayne Meadows, whom I know mostly from her appearances on "What's My Line?" does a surprisingly good job as one of David's conniving wives. George Zucco and Francis X. Bushman have small roles. The production, though not exactly opulent, is satisfactory; the print I saw on Fox Movie Channel was murky and in need of restoration. [FMC]

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