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Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lavish, sincere, not always convincing but still engaging epic, 11 Oct. 2006
This review is from: The Shoes of the Fisherman [DVD] [1968] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
As Pope operas go, The Shoes of the Fisherman is pretty enjoyable. Dated but shot on a lavish scale in the days when doorstop novels were turned into star-studded big screen epics rather than TV miniseries, it skirts close to guilty pleasure territory without ever providing any unintentional laughs as Anthony Quinn's political prisoner is freed to act as a mediator between the Church and Russia only to find himself elected Pope. Laurence Olivier delivers the bacon as the Russian premier in one of the first of his hammy blockbuster supporting turns he took to supplement his meagre £150 a week salary at the National Theatre, with John Gielgud turning up for one scene as an ailing pontiff while Oskar Werner, Leo McKern and Vittorio De Sica get the more substantial roles. Too much screen time is wasted on David Jansenn and Barbara Jefford's marital problems, an irrelevant subplot that simply gets discarded entirely in the last third, and the political crisis in the background with a starving China threatening world war isn't entirely convincing. Yet there is some substance there even if the politics, both theological and secular, are somewhat confused - how many roadshow pictures feature a philosopher-priest (Werner) under investigation for developing the theories of Teillhard de Chardin? There's even one surprisingly touching scene between Leo McKern and Quinn near the end of the film about loneliness, and Alex North's grandiose score, incorporating as its main theme part of his rejected score for 2001, is quite magnificent. And if you've ever wanted to see Zorba the Pope reciting the Shema Yisrael, this is the movie for you.

It's just a shame that the recent DVD runs into synch problems in the last third and that the making-of featurette has been cropped from 1.33:1 to 1.85:1, meaning that the extracts from the film in it are cropped both horizontally and vertically!
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