The King of Kings (1927)

Article 4888 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-1-2015
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Featuring H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming, Ernest Torrence
Country: USA
What it is: The Christ story

The story of Jesus Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem, miracles, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection is told.

Of the various versions of the Christ story I’ve seen so far, this one is easily the best. Why? For one thing, it makes no attempt to tell the whole story; the movie omits the birth of Christ, the early years and picks and chooses which episodes to cover. Various events are taken out of order and juxtaposed together, and new details are added that, as far as I remember, were not in the gospels. The end result is a streamlined version of the story with the emphasis on maximum dramatic effect. There are some brilliant sequences here. One of my favorite moments is the first appearance of Christ. He does not appear until about twenty minutes into the movie; our first view coincides with the miracle of the sight being restored to a blind boy, and it’s a very effective entrance. The sequence where the seven deadly sins are cast out of Mary Magdalene is also quite memorable. Much emphasis is given to the surrounding characters; Judas, Simon Peter, Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate are all given memorable characters and moments. There are some wonderful touches here; one of my favorite moments is when Simon of Cyrene first tries to help Jesus carry the cross. A good deal of credit must also go to the performance of H.B. Warner; in his hands, Christ does much more than solemnly gesture, but is given a natural and quite moving personality. Furthermore, the movie even relaxes enough to have a sense of humor on occasion, such as the scene where the Roman soldiers go fishing. Yes, at two and a half hours, it is a long movie, but it would have felt a lot longer if the various elements hadn’t gelled. As it is, this one is very effective.

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