BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE SILVER CHALICE (Warner Bros Archive Collection)

By • Jul 8th, 2013 •

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Many fine talents crashed and burned on this production.

In front of the camera, everyone bit the dust…everyone that is except Jack Palance, hamming it up in a strangely mellow manner, decked out for the third act in a robe-like garment with sperm cells painted all over it. You’ve heard about how truly awful this film is. And you’ve also heard that Palance must be seen in it to be believed. Both are true, so I guess everyone has to see this at least once, suffering through the horrors in order to experience the glorious madness of Palance.

Behind the camera is a trickier story. There are some extraordinary visuals.

But let’s start with Victor Saville. He never directed again, thank god. But he did produce I, THE JURY, KISS ME DEADLY, and MY GUN IS QUICK, film noirs from the pen of Mickey Spillane. So Victor is okay in my book. (He also directed some nice films in England – I don’t want to crucify the guy for having helmed one of the worst films ever made – but really, there was no coming back after this fiasco.)

Franz Waxman’s score is not an embarrassment, nor is William V. Skall’s Cinematography. But Production Design and Costume Design are out of this world. I don’t even know what they were aiming for. None of the biblical films of the period – THE ROBE, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS, QUO VADIS, etc – have any resemblance to the expressionistic sets and flamboyant costumes that the art department dreamed up here. They’re right behind Palance as reasons to tolerate the dreadful aspects of this film. Production Designer Rolf Gerard only production designed one other film, but he did co-create the costumes here with Marjorie Best, who had a long list of credits including GIANT and THE NUN’S STORY. She also designed the costumes for RIO BRAVO. But the one who seems most outré is Set Decorator Howard Bristol, whose work graces some daring pieces of celluloid such as KISS ME DEADLY, the remake of THE CABINET OF CALIGARI, GUYS AND DOLLS and, uncredited, GONE WITH THE WIND.

Acting wise, Paul Newman’s debut performance is every bit as bad as he claimed throughout his life. On IMDB it says that when the film ran on television in 1966, Newman took out ads in the Hollywood trade papers calling it “the worst motion picture produced during the 1950s,” apologizing for his performance, and asking people not to watch the film. Today there are viewers who maintain that his acting isn’t really that bad. But indeed it is. He’s so inept and inexpressive that he would have brought down George Pal’s ATLANTIS THE LOST CONTINENT even further if he’d starred in it.

Pier Angeli plays his romantic interest. They deserve each other. She’s an unrelenting sour puss and how anyone could listen to her for more than thirty seconds talking about her faith is a mystery. Interestingly, she ended up romantically linked with James Dean, who’d been offered the lead in CHALICE but went for EAST OF EDEN instead.

Virginia Mayo is actually rather good.

I was surprised by the good things in the film. It’s a sharply mixed bag, but I recommend seeing it at least once.

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    […] but he did co-create the costumes here with Marjorie Best, who had a long list […]

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