August is a great month. First of all, my column has really started to pick up speed this month. I'd like to thank all of my readers for sending me such nice notes via the World Wide Web. One in particular came from Jodie M. of Paramus, NJ: "Dear MR. JONATHAN ALEXANDRATOS, Would you, MR. JONATHAN ALEXANDRATOS, like to purchase a mortgage for the cost of one stick of gum per day? If so, please, MR. JONATHAN ALEXANDRATOS, do not hesitate to contact us!" Ah, fame. But I can't take all of the credit this month. Through long and intense research that involved looking at my Page-A-Day calendar, I have learned that August holds a Civic Holiday for Canada on the 1st, and British Bank Holiday on the 29th. To commemorate August's rich holidays, I have decided to take a look at two films that pay tribute to our fine month: THE KING OF KINGS (1928) and KING OF KINGS (1961).
Let me just clarify that these are not new films, and are both available on DVD. As for a quick plot run down in case you thought, as I did, that the "KING" referred to Elvis Presley: both movies depict the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The former KING, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, first came out in 1927 and ran for 155 minutes. It premiered at the grand opening of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The studio—fully in favor of Christianity but, you know, not for 2 and a half hours straight—cut the film to 112 minutes for a 1928 release. The film is silent and features some early use of color that is always gorgeous to admire. Nicolas Ray then directed the Rebel With A Cause for KING two in '61. Color, of course, was accepted in cinema by then, but this film dazzled audiences with its Sermon on the Mount scene, filmed in Super Technirama (Techni=big-ass, rama=screen), in which Captain Pike, err, Jeffrey Hunter preached the word of God to 7,000 extras who were probably wondering when he was going to start pulling booze out of a basket.
If it's authenticity you want, watch the latter KING. The ‘20s version is about as much The Bible as was The Communist Manifesto. Mary Magdalene, according to DeMille, was a rich queen who was envious of Jesus for becoming more popular than she was (insert BEVERLY HILLS 90210 theme song here). Many other discrepancies make this film very unreliable for the lazy Sunday School student as well. Ray's KING held up pretty well to the New Testament, with far fewer artistic liberties taken.
Famous actors are aplenty in KING the second. Hunter, as stated earlier, plays Jesus. Robert Ryan is John the Baptist. And Rip Torn also makes an appearance as history's favorite betrayer. KING one features a good cast, but few names are recognizable now. Joseph Schildkraut played Judas and is notable for playing yet another, if more respectable, Jewish person in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Nope, no type casting here, folks.
All in all, this is a case where the original film can be overlooked. It simply does not possess any real strong points necessary to understand the later version. DeMille's expert direction is pretty much its only point of interest. The Nicholas Ray version was more accurate, better acted, more artistically photographed, and just more worth your while. Now if you'll excuse me, I have more fan mail to answer. Christie B. liked my column so much, she's offering me breast implants!
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For anyone who's ever been told "You should have seen the original," this column provides insight into any film that’s been remade, rehashed, or re-envisioned.
Jonathan is a college student in New York. He is already an accomplished writer, having completed 3 full-length plays and numerous poems. He is also working on his first book.|
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