King of Kings Reviews
Rip torn Judas. Robert Ryan (leftie) John the Baptist.
Brings back memories of '61.
Covers the whole of Jesus' earthly life, from being born in a stable, to His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Leaves out His childhood and young adult years, jumping from shortly after His birth to when He first started preaching and performing miracles.
The final scenes are particularly powerful, the like of which were not seen again until The Passion of the Christ in 2004.
Leaving out His childhood was a mistake in that you don't get the build-up to His later life, as you don't get the earlier indications of His greatness and divinity.
Instead we have this almost-parallel story of Barabbas. In the Bible we only hear of Barabbas at Jesus' trial, but here there is a whole sub-plot involving him (how much of which is true, one cannot say). I can only assume this was put there for secular audiences, as his presence gives us some action scenes and makes the movie less single-stranded.
Solid performance by Jeffrey Hunter in the lead role. The major supporting cast are mostly fine, but there are some fairly hammy performances out there too.
A good movie for both Christians and non-Christians.
"He is truly the Christ! "
2014 seems to have a comeback in religious epics, with the success of both Son of God and Noah, and with the upcoming release of Exodus in December, it seems like Hollywood is bringing back a genre that was highly popular during the 1950's and early 60's, before the decline of the genre due to the New Hollywood era. Seeing that filmmakers have a newfound return of telling Bible stories to life, and also the fact that there was about four religious epics on my classics list, I figured this was the right time to watch one of them. Directed by Nicholas Ray, known for gritty tales about teenage angst such as Rebel Without a Cause (and one that I wouldn't picture making a Biblical epic), King of Kings is in fact a remake of a silent film with the same title that Cecil DeMille made back in 1927 that's highly regarded as one of his best films (one I might have to look into). It may not be as deeply compelling as something like Ben-Hur, but the 1961 King of Kings is well-made and has a strikingly beautiful style to it.
I'm pretty sure everyone knows the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God sent from heaven to preach the good news of the gospel to the world and suffer on the cross for the sins of mankind. One thing that's very unique about King of Kings is how the story was told. We witness some very well-filmed recreations of famous moments in the Scriptures, such as the birth of Christ, the crucifixion, and the Sermon on the Mount, but what makes King of Kings stand out above the rest is the fact that the film is mainly told in the perspective of the Romans, telling the film in more of a historical aspect, and I found that concept to be highly intriguing, and it worked very well in my book. A lot of Christians will likely complain that Jesus has a lack of screen time in order to favor the political angle, and I admit I kind of wanted to see more of Christ's miracles, the feeding of the 5,000, and raising Lazarus from the dead, but the film is never boring and manages to engage even when Christ is not in the picture, particularly the famous erotic dance of the daughter of Herodias. Another thing that was great about King of Kings was the backstory of the rebel Barabbas, that murderer that the crowd released over Jesus. In the film, Barabbas does his work in what he believes to help Christ in his mission on Earth, which I thought was a strong script addition to the story. Scenes where he leads attacks on the Roman Empire is extremely well-done, and extremely violent for its time. While tame compared to today's violence, these sequences still manage to be engaging in what the story's supposed to convey.
King of Kings is well-known today for being the first major film to show Jesus' face, something that was considered a controversy back in 1961, especially when past films have preferred to show only his hands or his shoulders, such as Ben-Hur. Also controversial for its time was the casting of Jeffery Hunter as Christ, who's teenage-idol appearance (though he was 33 when he did the role) put off a lot of religious audiences, calling him a "teenage Jesus". With the film having a stronger reputation today, and not being familiar with Hunter's work (the only other film I've seen him in is The Searchers), I actually thought he did a great job playing the King of Kings. Sure the film favors Roman politics and history, but Hunter still manages to convey what Christ was supposed to do for mankind, and is one of the strongest performances of Christ that I've seen on film. King of Kings features a great cast, with strong performances, such as Robert Ryan as John the Baptist, Harry Guardino as Barabbas, Rip Torn as Judas Iscariot, Sioban McKenna as Mary the mother, and Hurd Hatfield as Pontius Pilate. There's also well-done narration from Orson Welles.
Something I knew wouldn't disappoint was the film score by Miklós Rózsa, known for scoring religious epic in his day, others including Ben-Hur and Quo Vadis, and one that I find very underrated. His score for King of Kings is no different, one that sounds very epic, inspiring, and uplifting, with highlights being the use of choral music in the more moving moments of the film.
When asked why he made King of Kings, director Nicholas Ray said he wanted to make a film different from his usual style of filmmaking, something that's more epic and not a gritty black & white melodrama. He succeeds well in King of Kings, telling the story of Christ in a unique perspective, featuring wondrous visual images and featuring strong performances, particularly Jeffery Hunter as Jesus. The preference of politics over Christ might disappoint some viewers, but the final result is a true miracle for anyone that enjoys watching Biblical epics.
"Do you know and love Me? Feed My sheep, for My sheep are in all the nations. Go you into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature who hungers. I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
the Entr' Acte, The Lord's Prayer and The Epilogue, inspiring and memorable --- the best music ever written for a filmic presentation of The Christ..