King of Kings

King of Kings

Nicholas Ray (1961)

153min
U Certificate
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Review

Our Score
Films that feature portrayals of Jesus Christ generally have a bad reputation. This is an exception, despite the idiotic hype that accompanied its production. Jeffrey Hunter, who plays Jesus, was forbidden to give interviews, his chest and armpits were shaved and the film was dubbed "I Was a Teenage Jesus" because Nicholas Ray had also directed James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. But King of Kings is a radical rendering of the Gospels - much more so than Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ - in which Jesus is almost an extra, his passive resistance seen as a less viable alternative to the violent revolution advocated by Barabbas. Executives at MGM were so alarmed by the early footage that they had Hunter re-record all his lines to make him more assertive and the ending was reshot in Malibu by another director. To compensate for some weak performances and for some lapses into high camp (notably Frank Thring's pouting Herod Antipas), there is Miklos Rozsa's marvellous score, Orson Welles's uncredited narration and the lavish design that one associates with producer Samuel Bronston, who also made El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire before he went bankrupt. As for Hunter, he never became a major star and died in 1969, aged 42, following a fall.

Summary

Biblical epic chronicling the life of Christ, from the rumours of a coming Messiah before his birth, through his rise as a spiritual leader to his eventual betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection. Narrated by Orson Welles and starring Jeffrey Hunter, Siobhan McKenna, Robert Ryan, Rip Torn, Hurd Hatfield and Harry Guardino.

Cast & Crew

Balthazar Edric Connor
Jesus Christ Jeffrey Hunter
Mary, Mother of Jesus Siobhan McKenna
John the Baptist Robert Ryan
Pontius Pilate Hurd Hatfield
Lucius, the Centurion Ron Randell
Claudia Viveca Lindfors
Herodias Rita Gam
Mary Magdalene Carmen Sevilla
Salome Brigid Bazlen
Barabbas Harry Guardino
Judas Rip Torn
Herod Antipas Frank Thring
Narrator Orson Welles
King Herod Grégoire Aslan
Caiaphas Guy Rolfe
Peter Royal Dano
Director Nicholas Ray
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourAvailable on: video and DVD
Drama