Monday, March 24, 2008


Another Bible story, like that of Salome, which I know mostly from pop culture. And as with the 50's movie of SALOME, this film gives the story of the wicked female a redemptive ending. Director Cecil B. DeMille intones the opening narration about how the Philistines and their idolatrous ways have enslaved the monotheistic Israelites. Strongman Samson (Victor Mature) is supposed to marry local nice girl Miriam (Olive Deering), but he gets interested in the Philistine woman Semadar (Angela Lansbury), who herself is desired by a Philistine prince (Henry Wilcoxon). When the Saran, Philistine ruler of the land (George Sanders), sees Samson kill a lion with his bare hands, he gives Semadar to him, which pisses off Delilah (Hedy Lamarr), Semadar's sister, who is hot for Samson. At the wedding feast, Samson makes an extravagant wager with several men about a riddle they can't figure out, but when Semadar betrays him and tells the men the answer, Samson leaves. He returns later that night to find that she has married the prince; a huge battle ensues in which Samson kicks everyone's ass and Semadar is killed by a stray Philistine arrow. Samson goes into hiding among his people. The Saran levies heavy taxes which he will lift if Samson is given up to him, and Delilah vows her own revenge. Samson is betrayed to the Saran, but during the capture, Samson conjures up a mighty storm and proceeds to slaughter the army with just the jawbone of an ass (a "toy" used by a court dwarf to entertain). Delilah uses her seductive wiles to find out that the secret to Samson's power is his long hair, which he vowed to God never to cut. As we all know, she cuts his hair and he loses his power. The Saran captures him, blinds him, and puts him to work in the mill, on public display as a defeated enemy. Delilah is horrified at how far the Saran has gone. His hair grown back, Samson prays to God and regains his strength. When he is made sport of in an arena, humbled before the Philistine god Dagon, Delilah helps him get revenge by pulling down the pillars of Dagon's temple, killing pretty much the entire cast.

When compared to DeMille's later Biblical epic THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, this suffers. On the plus side, this film has lots of spectacular (for the time) sets and beautiful, colorful costumes. It also has lots of overheated melodramatic dialogue, but it's not as much fun as the later movie--when Lamarr says of Mature, "He's magnificent even in chains," I can hear Anne Baxter purring, "Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!" The cast here is not particularly strong: Mature, though possessing a decent physique, is wooden; Lamarr, who looks fabulous in her slinky silver and gold gowns, is a second-rate Anne Baxter; even Sanders who is usually an asset in all of his films, seems to be at odds, underplaying what he should be overplaying. Russ Tamblyn, all of 15, has a small role, and Fay Holden, Andy Hardy's mom in the long-running movie series, has a mostly wordless part as Delilah's trusted servant. The battle scenes are stiff and artificial, but the destruction of the temple at the end is pulled off nicely. [FMC]

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