Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Director: King Vidor

Writers: Crane Wilbur, Anthony Veiller, Paul Dudley, George Bruce

Composer: Mario Nascimbene, Malcolm Arnold

Starring: Yul Brynner, Gina Lollobrigida, George Sanders, Marisa Pavan, David Farrar, John Crawford, Finlay Currie, Harry Andrews, Jose Nieto, Maruchi Fresno, William Devlin, Jack Gwillim, Jean Anderson, Laurence Naismith, Julio Pena

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Behold! The love story of the ages!

Plot: Shortly before his death in ancient Israel King David has a vision from God telling him that his younger son Solomon should succeed him as king. His other son Adonijah is unhappy and vows to attain the throne. Meanwhile the Egyptian Pharaoh agrees to cede a Red Sea port to the Queen of Sheba is she can find a way to destroy Solomon, whose wisdom and benevolent rule is seen as a threat to more tyrannical monarchs in the region. Sheba, Pharaoh, Adonijah, the leaders of the Twelve Tribes and his own God make life difficult for Solomon who is tempted by Sheba to stray.

My rating:  5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Here's a one way ticket to Yawnsville.  First, the bad.  Brynner has no charisma in this picture.  Period.  Lollobrigida has a little.  Semi period.  Together, they're just reading memorized words from the page.  Tyrone Power had the lead of Solomon until he died during filming.  Brynner replaced him.  I suspect Power would've been much better and perhaps would have been better suited to strike up a romance with Gina HUBBA HUBBA Lollobrigida (as Sheba, or rather the Queen of Sheba).  The rest of the cast fares well.  Harry Andrews (as Baltor, Sheba's top advisor) is hardly recognizable under the darkened skin makeup, beard, robes et al.  George Sanders is playing the strong asshole bully that he's sooooooo good at playing (like he was many times before and after).  There's a little action in the beginning and more at the end (that final battle with the shields was balls-out amazing!) and everything in between is love stuff drama with a dusting of political drama (very lightly, though). The lofty dialogue is the kind you get in these old historical epics and borders on cheese and it must be spoken by actors that have the chops to pull it off.  Sadly Brynner and Lollobrigida are rarely able to do so.  Mario Nascimbene's score is very good (yay) and the absolute best part of the film is the pagan dance.  It's HOT!!!

Stupid unembedable videos.  The last twenty minutes of the picture is a mixed bag of some good battle scenes, a stoning and then a silly redemption.  Is it worth watching?  It's hard to say.  You couldn't keep me from it but I can't recommend it.  It's very slow, the two leads have no charisma together and they often can't deliver the material without sounding stagy.  It's hard to endure something that has such a large mid-section of bland.  That pagan dance is fantastic.  It's too bad there isn't a better quality video of it online.  I'm still excited to see more S&S/historical epics now that I'm on that kick again.  This was Vidor's last feature, by the way.

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