BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Mar 23rd, 2011 •

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BluRay is important to films shot in 70mm, I would assume. Perhaps mid-range masters could soften the super clarity of such aspect ratioed productions, but not in this case. The DVD was just fine, but you have to look no further than the opening scenes in this release to see the staggering difference. Thousands of Roman soldiers march toward a walled city. The amount of background detail is overwhelming. Good as the DVD is, it just can’t capture all that minute detail.

Miklos Rozsa’s score is, likewise, sweetened as much as possible. The prelude (traditionally music played over a closed curtain, used to get roadshow patrons into their seats) sounds like an uninspired Miklos just playing the scales. But once the film begins and the titles kick in, the familiar main theme dominates, and while it might be considered Jesus-light, it’s undeniably beautiful.

KING OF KINGS was a product of the Samuel Bronston empire, situated in Spain in the 60s, and, more than a European rival of Hollywood epic-filmmaking, it matched anything the US was producing in that genre. Perhaps the best of Bronston’s films was EL CID, but KING OF KINGS was an intelligent, respectable piece of work. It has come out since that Ray Bradbury wrote the narration, that Orson Welles delivered it, and such classy talent shows. Director Ray empowers the spectacle with thoughtful ideas and earnest performances, though there is also the sense that he may have occasionally run out of steam, and at such points the drama falters.

Casting Jeffrey Hunter, age-correct for the role of Jesus, yet younger than world audiences were used to seeing the Messiah on film or in paintings, created something of a stir. He later would be cast as the original captain of the Starship Enterprise, only to lose the coveted role when a second pilot was filmed with William Shatner in the lead. Hunter is, as are the others, earnest in his portrayal of Christ, and it is with him that I found my one and only gripe with the BluRay transfer. When he is being baptized by John (Robert Ryan) and we get our first good look at him, on the DVD, we can see his remarkable blue eyes – which is one reason he was probably hired for the role. The BluRay, however, contains so much more detail that, in order to balance the entire range of light in the sequence, those same shots now find his eyes hidden in shadow. Fascinating. But before long those baby blues are back on display.

Also, it’s always nice to see Hurd Hatfield, here playing Pontius Pilate. Hatfield considered that his portrayal of Dorian Gray (1944) ruined his career. But he was to appear again in Bronston’s production of EL CID. And we’re also treated to Australian Frank Thring, an unforgettable, prissy presence, always in regal, devious roles, here as Herod Antipas. He was equally delicious and detestable in EL CID, BEN-HUR and THE VIKINGS. If you’d like to see what became of him after his ‘epic’ phase was over, check out MAD DOG MORGAN (1976) MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985) or HOWLING III – THE MARSUPIALS (1987)

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One Response »

  1. Roy
    I have just written about Frank Thring over at…..I entitled it THANK YOU THRING!…….check it out…there is a link here on the films in review site under my profile….

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