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For the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille film, see The King of Kings
King of Kings

DVD cover
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Samuel Bronston
Written by Philip Yordan, Ray Bradbury (uncredited)
Starring Jeffrey Hunter
Siobhán McKenna
Robert Ryan
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Manuel Berenguer
Milton R. Krasner
Franz Planer
Editing by Harold F. Kress
Renée Lichtig
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) October 11, 1961
Running time 168 min.
Language English

King of Kings (1961) is an American motion picture epic made by Samuel Bronston Productions and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is a retelling of the story of Jesus from his birth to his crucifixion and Resurrection.

Contents

Synopsis

An earlier silent film about Jesus Christ was titled The King of Kings, released in 1927 and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and starring H.B. Warner as Jesus. Director Nicholas Ray's 1961 version places Jesus's life in the political context of Roman conquest. As Jesus becomes an active preacher and healer, his activities are contrasted with the political stance of Barabbas and his insurgents who battle against the Roman occupiers.

Barabbas, rather than being shown in only one scene as the murderer whose freedom is offered to the mob in exchange for Jesus' life (as is usually done in film versions of the life of Christ), plays a major role throughout King of Kings. He is depicted as an incendiary figure fighting Roman domination, and a good friend of Judas Iscariot. Judas believes that he can persuade Barabbas to embrace Christ as a liberator, and that he can influence Christ to literally take up arms against Rome, but Barabbas becomes disillusioned after listening to the Sermon on the Mount. It is then that Judas decides to betray Christ to the Romans.

Production

The film features scenes of Jesus' miracles and his Sermon on the Mount (shot with many thousands of extras), as well as a scene where Jesus visits John the Baptist in his dungeon during his imprisonment by Herod Antipas. Ray staged the scene in such a way that John the Baptist must crawl up an incline inside the dungeon, holding out his hand to reach for Jesus' hand: a vivid example of Ray's architectural sense of composition and visual drama (Ray had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright to become an architect).

Nicholas Ray's direction balances spectacle with the human drama of Jesus's life. In the Sermon on the Mount sequence, Ray also conveys the central ethical-religious messages of Jesus' teachings. As such, the film can be seen as a model of the epic where grandeur serves to underscore the content. King of Kings is also memorable for the music score by Miklós Rózsa, a Hungarian émigré composer who composed the music for MGM's Ben-Hur (1959) and many other epic films.

The production was photographed in Technirama by Manuel Berenguer, Milton R. Krasner and Franz Planer, and was presented in 70mm Super Technirama at selected first-run engagements.

Not credited at the time, Orson Welles did the voiceover of the narration, written by Ray Bradbury.[1]

Reception

Brigid Bazlen portrays Salome, seen her performing an erotic dance in order to incite King Herod with lust into giving her "anything [she] wants" — the head of John the Baptist.

The film was panned by publications such as Time magazine,[2] and even by critics such as the New York Times's Bosley Crowther.[3] It was the only one of MGM's religious epics to fail at the box office, but it has come to be regarded since as one of the finest cinematic versions of the life of Christ.[1] According to the Internet Movie Database, the film had a budget of $6,000,000, and made $25,000,000 worldwide as of 1989, tallying together worldwide cinema showings, video rentals, and video sales.

Most films at the time did not show Jesus's face, preferring to do shots of his hands (as in Ben-Hur) or over-the-shoulder views. King of Kings was the first large-budget major studio sound film in English to actually show Christ's face, and as such, was a pioneering effort. Jeffrey Hunter's youthful appearance (although he was 33 when cast) caused some to nickname the film "I Was a Teenage Jesus," a parody from the Michael Landon film I Was a Teenage Werewolf. However, Brigid Bazlen's performance has been evaluated as being superb, with her voluptuous seduction of a drunken lascivious Herod winning her rave reviews and being widely regarded as her best performance.[4][5]

When the movie was released on DVD in 2003, it received a PG-13 rating for some violent content.

Primary cast

See also

References

External links

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For the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille film, see King of Kings (1927 film)
King of Kings
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Samuel Bronston (uncredited)
Ray Bradbury (uncredited)
Produced by Samuel Bronston
Written by Philip Yordan
Ray Bradbury (uncredited)
Starring Jeffrey Hunter
Siobhán McKenna
Robert Ryan
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Manuel Berenguer
Milton R. Krasner
Franz Planer
Editing by Harold F. Kress
Renée Lichtig
Studio Samuel Bronston Productions
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) October 11, 1961
Running time 168 min.
Language English

King of Kings (1961) is an American motion picture epic made by Samuel Bronston Productions and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is a retelling of the story of Jesus from his birth to his crucifixion and Resurrection.

Contents

Plot

In 63 BC. BC, Pompey conquers Jerusalem and the city is sacked. Having just entered, the conqueror goes to the Temple to seize the treasure of Solomon and massacres the priests there. He then discovers that the treasure is nothing but a collection of scrolls of the Torah. These he holds over a fire until an old priest reaches for the them imploringly. Pompey relents and hands them to the old man. Many years later a series of rebellions break out against the authority of Rome so the Romans crucify many of the leaders and install their man, Herod the Great, on the throne of Judea.

At the end of the century, a carpenter named Joseph and his wife Mary, who is about to give birth, arrive in Bethlehem for the census. Not having found accommodation for the night, they take refuge in a st able, where their child is born, Jesus. The shepherds, who have followed the Magi from the East, gather to worship him. However, Herod, informed of the birth of a child-king, orders the centurion Lucius and his men to go to Bethlehem and kill all the newborn children. Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with the child. Herod dies, killed by his son Herod Antipas, who then takes power. In Nazareth, Jesus, who is now twelve years old, is working with his father Joseph, when soldiers arrive under the command of Lucius, who realizes that Jesus escaped the massacre of the infants. But he does nothing and only asks that his parents register his birth.

Years pass by, and Jewish rebels led by Barabbas and Judas Iscariot are preparing to attack the caravan carrying the next governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate and his wife Claudia. The ambush fails, and Pilate and Herod Antipas meet on the banks of the River Jordan, where John the Baptist preaches to the crowds. Jesus arrives here, now 30 years of age. He is baptized by John, who recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus then goes into the desert where he is tempted by the devil. After forty days, Jesus goes to Galilee, where he recruits his Apostles.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Herod arrests John the Baptist and Jesus visits him in prison. Judas leaves the rebel Barabbas and joins the Apostles. Jesus begins to preach and gather crowds among which are even Claudia, Pilate's wife, and Lucius. Herod beheads John on a whim of his stepdaughter, Salome. He himself, Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas are terrorized by the works and miracles of Jesus. Barabbas is preparing a major revolt in Jerusalem, and during that time, Jesus enters triumphantly into the holy city and goes to the Temple to preach. The rebels storm the Antonia Fortress, but the legions of Pilate become involved and crush the revolt, causing hundreds of casualties. Barabbas is arrested. Jesus meets the disciples on the evening of Thursday, having supper one last time with them and after goes to pray at Gethsemane. In the meantime, Judas wants Jesus to free Judea from the Romans and to force his hand delivers him to the Jewish authorities. Jesus is brought before Pilate; the latter having begun his trial, Pilate sends him to Herod Antipas, who, in turn, sends him back.

Pilate is worried by the return of Jesus. Claudia begs her husband to release him, but the people demand the release of Barabbas and Pilate bows to their pressure. Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns on his head, carries his cross to Golgotha where he is crucified with two thieves. Desperate because he has betrayed Jesus to his death, Judas hangs himself and his body is found by Barabbas. Jesus dies in front of his mother, the apostle John, a few soldiers, and Claudia and Lucius (who utters the fateful words: "He was really the Son of God"). His body is taken down from the cross and is carried to a rock tomb. Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty, and encounters the Risen Jesus.

The film ends on the shores of Lake Tiberias when Jesus appears to the Apostles and tells them to bring his message to the ends of the world.

Synopsis

An earlier silent film about Jesus Christ was titled The King of Kings, released in 1927 and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and starring H.B. Warner as Jesus. Director Nicholas Ray's 1961 version places Jesus's life in the political context of Roman conquest. As Jesus becomes an active preacher and healer, his activities are contrasted with the political stance of Barabbas and his insurgents who battle against the Roman occupiers.

Barabbas, rather than being shown in only one scene as the murderer whose freedom is offered to the mob in exchange for Jesus' life (as is usually done in film versions of the life of Christ), plays a major role throughout King of Kings. He is depicted as an incendiary figure fighting Roman domination, and a good friend of Judas Iscariot. Judas believes that he can persuade Barabbas to embrace Christ as a liberator, and that he can influence Christ to literally take up arms against Rome, but Barabbas becomes disillusioned after listening to the Sermon on the Mount. It is then that Judas decides to betray Christ to the Romans.

Production

The film features scenes of Jesus' miracles and his Sermon on the Mount (shot with many thousands of extras), as well as a scene where Jesus visits John the Baptist in his dungeon during his imprisonment by Herod Antipas. Ray staged the scene in such a way that John the Baptist must crawl up an incline inside the dungeon, holding out his hand to reach for Jesus' hand: a vivid example of Ray's architectural sense of composition and visual drama (Ray had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright to become an architect).

Nicholas Ray's direction balances spectacle with the human drama of Jesus's life. In the Sermon on the Mount sequence, Ray also conveys the central ethical-religious messages of Jesus' teachings. As such, the film can be seen as a model of the epic where grandeur serves to underscore the content.

King of Kings is also memorable for the music score by legendary composer Miklós Rózsa, whose most recent work at the time was the score for MGM's hugely successful religious epic Ben-Hur (1959), for which he won his third Oscar. Rózsa composed the scores for many of MGM's epic films, including Quo Vadis? (1951) and El Cid (which he scored the same year as King of Kings).

The production was photographed in Technirama by Manuel Berenguer, Milton R. Krasner and Franz Planer, and was presented in 70mm Super Technirama at selected first-run engagements.

Not credited at the time, Orson Welles did the voiceover of the narration, written by Ray Bradbury.[1] Welles insisted on pronouncing the word "apostles" with a hard "t".

Reception

portrays Salome, seen here performing a belly dance in order to incite King Herod with lust into giving her "anything [she] wants" — the head of John the Baptist.]]

The film was panned by publications such as Time magazine,[2] and even by critics such as the New York Times's Bosley Crowther.[3] It was the only one of MGM's religious epics to fail at the box office, but it has come to be regarded since as one of the finest cinematic versions of the life of Christ.[1] According to the Internet Movie Database, the film had a budget of $6,000,000, and made $25,000,000 worldwide as of 1989, tallying together worldwide cinema showings, video rentals, and video sales.

Most films at the time did not show Jesus's face, preferring to do shots of his hands (as in Ben-Hur) or over-the-shoulder views. King of Kings was the first large-budget major studio sound film in English to actually show Christ's face, and as such, was a pioneering effort. Jeffrey Hunter's youthful, matinee idol appearance (although he was 33 when cast) caused some to nickname the film "I Was a Teenage Jesus," a parody from the Michael Landon film I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

When the movie was released on DVD in 2003, it received a PG-13 rating for some violent content.

Primary cast

See also

Christianity portal

References

External links


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