King Of Kings

Nicholas Ray’s 1961 retelling of the story of Jesus for producer Samuel Bronston may have spelled the beginning of his downfall as a commercial director, and Orson Welles, who narrates, was so offended that he didn’t want his name on the credits. Yet this quirky ‘Scope biblical spectacular is a lot more thoughtful and interesting than most. Jeffrey Hunter’s Christ wears a red cloak that calls to mind James Dean’s jacket, and Ray’s conception of the Sermon on the Mount as a series of personal exchanges is arresting to say the least. Philip Yordan (Johnny Guitar) signed the script, and Robert Ryan, Siobhan McKenna, Hurd Hatfield, Rip Torn, Viveca Lindfors, and Rita Gam figure in the cast. In some ways this blockbuster, simple and emotional, might be regarded as Jesus Christ Superstar avant la lettre. 168 min. (JR)

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