• Unrated, 1 hr. 55 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Cecil B. DeMille
    In Theaters:
    Apr 19, 1927 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jun 17, 1997
  • Kino Video

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The King of Kings Reviews

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sanjurosamurai
sanjurosamurai

Super Reviewer

February 21, 2008
cecil b demilles silent classic about the life of Jesus. demille, one of the greatest directors in history, says that this is the most important film he ever made. he claimed to have a deeply rooted reverence for the Bible but he was also a showman as a filmmaker, both sides of his character show in this film. he took way too much liberty with the telling of Jesus' life and created a flawed portrayal of events, but did so well with what he got right that I still had a genuinely worshipful experience watching this film. some of it was so bad it was comical, other parts were so good i was in awe. ultimately it was well worth the time even though this film was a bit long for a silent film.
RicC
November 21, 2010
Awesome silent-film version of the Jesus myth, replete with some vintage sets and an easy to follow, dry recounting of the events shortly before and after the crucifixion (Using Scripture snippets themselves). I think I am biased, as biblical adaptations have always immensely fascinated me, but I still think this film is epic enough to stand on its own two feet, over eighty years after it was filmed. The perspective is from the New Testament, so Judaism is second class, and there's proselytizing ulterior motives, but the more zealous a religious director, the better the movie experience. For seriously diverse juxtaposing, see this alongside The Passion of the Christ; both films are practically one in the same in terms of structure, script and purpose, but with obvious decade distinctions.
TonyPolito
August 15, 2010
Though it's silent B&W, DeMille's telling of the Works of Christ truly stands the test of time. Camera composition, lighting and score are all more than strong enough to carry the viewer well beyond the burden of lack of dialogue.

There's also significant detail paid here toward accuracy: all the Gospels have been integrated and most of the intertitles (eg, diologue/script cards) are footnoted with chapter/verse. Hence, the typical viewer may still learn a thing or two.

The Resurrection scene is in (a very crude version of, and restoration of) Technicolor.

This film premiered at, as well as grand-opened, Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Be sure to choose this 155-minute version, a Criterion resto, which I viewed when served up as TCM Christmas fare.

RECOMMENDATION: For those especially interested in the telling of the last years of Christ, both worthy, powerful viewing and hidden gem.
liquidthunder2002
February 6, 2010
Not sure what to say about this one. Maybe it was good for it's time.
I will say this - I didn't know Mary and Judas had a relationship.
Hmmm....
philliprenke
March 5, 2009
This version of Christ's story touches on all the major plot points but doesn't go above and beyond the basic storytelling that such an event would allow.
December 28, 2013
This is an example of the book being much better than the film. The film provides some iconic "stained glass" images - but sadly, the images of Christ have always taken on greater cultural significance than the man Himself, or the book that tells about Him.

There are some interesting revisions of the Gospel Epic in this film, and scenes were built around scripture verses taken out of context and strung together to create a linear narrative. There are scenes wherein assumptions made, and connections implied that are not actually in scripture . . . all in all, as a Christian, this left me pretty cold, and even a bit disturbed by its shallow portrayal of Christ, sensationalization and lack of substance.
filmlover1994
September 16, 2013
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
July 21, 2013
THE best portrayal of Jesus ever! The drama and inaccuracy in the first third of the movie is forgivable in light of the exquisite spirituality of the Savior's character: his love for the little ones, his love and forgiveness for the sinner, his love and compassion for the sick and downtrodden. Yes, the definitive and interwoven sentiment throughout the film is "love". It is my opinion that no movie in modern times has been able to capture the humble grandeur of Jesus Christ as Mr. Warner did in the 1927 movie. I was also impressed with the portrayal of the various Mary's and Martha. Their individual efforts to bring the onlooker into the hearts of the women they were portraying was successful in that we were able to experience through them the tenderness, immeasurable love, and reverence they felt for the Savior; and, of course, in the end, the overwhelming grief which rendered them so physically and emotionally that they found any normal function of life incapacitate. Yes, I truly loved this movie and hope to find a copy for my library. Reva Dalton Bailey
May 4, 2013
Cecil B. DeMille returns to the silent religious epic after the success his previous The Ten Commandments. This film, however, is plagued by mediocrity and a terrible air of self importance. While the scenario is disconnected and employs the most traditional cheesy tactics to engage its audience emotionally, even the overtly meticulous photography seems flawed as it is exaggeratedly artificial, and helps make the film as spiritually fulfilling as a religious Christmas card. Some moments of technical majesty are still admirable and downright spectacular, but The King of Kings never elevates itself to the standards that DeMille could have been able to achieve.
April 1, 2013
When a confirmed atheist finds a movie about the life of Christ moving, it must be special. This is. Having seen nearly all the Biblical epics over the years, "King Of Kings" is clearly the best. It has all the earmarks of a DeMille film- cast of thousands, scantilly clad girls gyrating around, and all of that. It also has one of the best reveals in film history; the first time we see Jesus, thru the eyes of a miraculously healed blind girl, is moving. A must-see during holiday times.
David Gordon
April 1, 2013
When a confirmed atheist finds a movie about the life of Christ moving, it must be special. This is. Having seen nearly all the Biblical epics over the years, "King Of Kings" is clearly the best. It has all the earmarks of a DeMille film- cast of thousands, scantilly clad girls gyrating around, and all of that. It also has one of the best reveals in film history; the first time we see Jesus, thru the eyes of a miraculously healed blind girl, is moving. A must-see during holiday times.
T.S.M.
December 28, 2010
Such hokum. Devoid of complexity, nuance, subtelty... just like any other DeMille film. However, he's like Capra - a driving force of earnestness that is so overwhelming that you just go along with the material. It's technically flawless filmmaking - the earthquake is spectacular, for instance. H.B. Warner seems to have based his performance on stained-glass windows, which isn't really a problem for a silent film. The only real performance of note, though, is Joseph Schildkraut as Judas Iscariot, who portrays a rather consistent and heartbreaking decline into hell for the character.

Oh, and the two-strip Technicolor is very, very cool.
gillianren
April 15, 2010
Vastly Overrated on Every Level

Probably tomorrow, we'll get to a second movie which used some of the same sets, and in December, we did the last. The walls of Jerusalem became the gates through which the titular King Kong appeared, and when they'd been standing around the studios for over a decade and were arguably a hazard, they were covered in fake storefronts and such then set on fire to represent the Burning of Atlanta. DeMille was a big fan of the spectacle, and this movie was no exception. It has less skin than a lot of his other Biblical efforts--he tended to use the dignity of religious pictures, with the understanding that they were strong and moral, as an excuse to show sin in great detail. Mary Magdalene spends the beginning of the movie dressed in a distinctly skanky manner, but that really appears to be it. No one bathing in a tub of milk. No dances of any kind. Decadence seems limited to just kind of lolling around. But it's spectacle!

The story is familiar to most of the world, though bits of it should be confusing to anyone who's actually read the Gospels. You see, we start at a decadent dinner, where Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan), here apparently closer to a high-class call girl even than the flawed portrayal of her as a prostitute or adulteress, is angry because Judas Iscariot (Joseph Schildkraut) isn't in attendance. Instead, he's off gallivanting about with some itinerant preacher called Jesus (H. B. Warner). He is doing this because he thinks Jesus will become king and raise Judas to a position of power. Mary Magdalene believes her powers of seduction will return Judas to her side, even though she's told that the preacher's magic is strong enough so that he can even raise the dead. She goes in all of her slutty glory to confront Jesus, and he banishes the Seven Deadly Sins from her. She then ceases to matter for much of the story, which wanders back and forth over the Gospels from then on out.

And I mean the faithfulness, if you will, to Scriptural sources is terrible. Leaving aside what I'm quite certain are mistranslations in the title cards, such as that those were demons, the cards give us the book, chapter, and verse in the corner. This means that anyone paying attention doesn't really have to know the Bible very well to recognize that the temptation by Satan (Alan Brooks) doesn't actually take place after Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem in triumph. We leap back and forth, with some verses repeated, according to what fits the intended storyline best, without regard to the traditional sequence of events. DeMille went out of his way to get the approval of various religious figures, but I can't imagine why they gave it. Moral it may be, but a good portrayal of the acts in the Gospels it is not. To the point that it's actively confusing in places.

Which is not helped by the casting of Warner as Jesus. He was about fifty at the time, nearly twenty years older than Jesus was supposed to have been, and he looks it. He's almost like Grandpa Jesus, which is probably not the look DeMille was going for. His original choice was 29, but he died before filming began. (The second choice was J. B. Warner, not related, though H. B.'s family took him in and therefore they are believed by many to have been brothers.) His Virgin Mary (Dorothy Cumming) was about the age his Jesus should have been. (You might remember Jesus as Mr. Gower of Bedford Falls.) The Apostles all sort of blend together, though it's nice that the WASP-y one was Judas. There are certain traditions wherein Judas looks more stereotypically Jewish than any of the others; in this film, that honour goes to Ernest Torrance as Peter. The others, I couldn't describe on a dare, though there is a Roman soldier whose outfit was later borrowed and reshaped in the breastplate for Lucy Lawless to wear.

There's a lot of use of soft focus and strategic lighting, which serves to emphasize the holiness of Jesus but also brings to mind tricks used to make Lucille Ball look young enough to play Mame Dennis when she manifestly wasn't. It's as though DeMille thought his Jesus was so old that you'd forget that's who he was if his divinity wasn't apparent every minute. (Normally, I capitalize the pronoun, there, as is technically correct. For a movie, it seems sacrilegious.) He doesn't use such tricks with his Virgin Mary, which is almost a shame, because it would help you remember which one she is. Still, it all gets dreadfully heavy-handed in places. As is traditional in the screen Jesus, he kind of stands around with his eyes cast upward, looking otherworldly in a vacuous way. The division of Jesus between Man and God has been an issue of theological debate for nearly two thousand years now, but filmmakers seem to prefer the divine. It's an easy way to separate Jesus from the sinners around him, I guess.
mysticlvr
September 28, 2005
[u]Off the Map:[/u]
touchingly sweet... yet a tiny bit sad - in a real way.
very unique characters and plot.
great "drama"-type movie.
8.5

[u]Flightplan:[/u]
i love jodie foster... but comeon... u still need a real script! the lines were so cheesy i found myself laughing instead of at the edge of my seat. just too cheesy to get over a 5.

[u]King of Kings:[/u]
good movie... tad bit disturbing... but really good. :)
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