Saturday, March 30, 2013


In the 9th century BC, King Ahab (Eduard Franz) rules Israel and is planning to take Phoenician princess Jezebel (Paulette Goddard) as his queen, much to the dismay of his people, specifically the prophet Elijah (John Hoyt) who foresees that she will replace worship of the One True God with idolatrous worship of the god Baal, and if that happens, drought and unrest will plague the land. Ahab says that's nonsense and sends loyal warrior Jehu (George Nader) to meet her when she approaches the palace; she is quite taken with him, even deciding to ditch her advisor and his men and ride into town with just Jehu. The very day she meets Ahab, she seduces Jehu, and soon both men are under her spell; Jehu distances himself from his girlfriend Deborah, and Ahab does indeed let Jezebel set up a temple to Baal. Sure enough, drought follows. Baal's followers call upon him for rain, but it isn't until Elijah prays to Jehovah that the drought ends. A pissed-off Jezebel puts a price on the head of Elijah, and threatens to kill one of his followers each day that he remains at liberty, though Elijah foretells the day when Jezebel will be eaten by dogs. Will Jehu break free of Jezebel's spell and help his people defeat Baal's followers?

This is kind of fun in a campy way; it wants to be a big DeMille-type epic, but with a very low budget, the big action scenes are kept off-camera and told rather than shown, especially at the climax. The outdoor locations (undoubtedly in California) make the Holy Land look more like the Old West, and the sets are sparse and cheap-looking. A song of praise to Baal sounds like a Weavers folk song. The film is in color but over the years it's gotten a bit faded and murky. The acting is generally weak: Goddard, in her 40s, is attractive but not especially sexy or vibrant, though at her best she sounds like Katherine Hepburn; Nader, at 32, is stoically handsome (pictured with Goddard) but looks rather put-upon and unhappy. Franz lacks energy, which leaves Hoyt to ham it up and give the movie some juice as the doomsaying prophet. He also plays the film's narrator, a present-day Biblical scholar who is relating the story of Jezebel in a classroom, though when he leaves the room at the end, it's hinted that maybe he actually is Elijah (?). Joe Besser, who became one of the Three Stooges in the 50s, has a comic relief role as Master of Chariots, though his screen time is mercifully brief. [DVD]

No comments: