Saturday, January 30, 2016

Barabbas (1961)

Director: Richard Fleischer

Writers: Christopher Fry, Par Lagerkvist, Nigel Balchin, Diego Fabbri, Ivo Perilli

Composer: Mario Nascimbene

Starring: Anthony Quinn, Silvana Mangano, Arthur Kennedy, Katy Jurado, Harry Andrews, Vittorio Gassman, Norman Wooland, Valentina Cortese, jack Palance, Ernest Borgnine, Arnoldo Foa, Michael Gwynn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The motion picture that begins where the other big ones leave off

Plot: Epic account of the thief Barabbas, who was spared crucifixion when Pilate manipulated the crowd into to pardoning him, rather than Jesus. Struggling with his spirituality, Barabbas goes through many ordeals leading him to the gladiatorial arena, where he tries to win his freedom and confront his inner demons.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I finished the disappointing SOLOMON AND SHEBA (1959) on one day and started this one the next.  SHEBA is a poor example of the Sword & Sandal/Epic film.  The biggest issue is that the lead actors weren't good enough to sell the cheesy, stagy dialogue.  That's not the case with BARABBAS.  First off, it's better written and the acting is MUCH better, too.  The first half of the picture is leisurely paced and you might think it rather slow but I kind of dug it.  The music is sparse but when it's there it's moody, sad and ominous.  All of this is unusual for epic films of this era.  This is the second film I've seen with a Nascimbene score in as many days and I'm really diggin' this guy's work.  It's a completely different score, tonally, than what he provided for SHEBA, and it really suits the picture well.  Quinn delivers a masterful performance.  He doesn't have a massive amount of dialogue like you'd get in other pictures of this genre and era.  He holds back and that works to the film's advantage.  Once he's out of the sulfur mines and he's in gladiator school, the film picks up the pace considerably and we get introduced to Jack Palance's masterful gladiator, Torvald, and he owns that role.  What a badass performance!  The training reminded me of the previous year's SPARTACUS (1960) and the gladiatorial matches are nicely handled and fun as hell.  It's this final third of the film that's the most fun. Naturally, being what this movie is about, religion is all through it.  I don't believe a word of it but I still really enjoyed the picture.  It's well written, scored, acted, directed, great location shooting and sets, the works.  The Columbia DVD has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with the only extra being the trailer.  

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