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on 8 November 2007
1961's Francis of Assisi is more a coloring book than a movie, a horribly miscast, painfully bland and often extremely badly written trudge through the saint's life that goes out of its way not to offend anyone but simply bores instead. The locations may be Italian but the aesthetic is pure Hollywood, and Hollywood at its least convincing: Francis' and his followers' march to Rome is filmed like something out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as they hum along to Mario Nascimbene's score and Bradford Dillman charms the birds out of the trees. You almost expect to hear them sing Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It's Off to Rome We Go or "Zip-adee doo dah, Zipo-adee ay/It's fun to worship in the Franciscan way." Dillman gives a superficial but inoffensive performance as Francis (inoffensive being the watchword here), often looking like Charlton Heston's undernourished younger brother, Stuart Whitman struggles and loses in almost every scene as Francis' brash aristocratic war-loving friend while Dolores Hart is no more convincing as Clare, which is particularly strange considering that in real life the actress went on to become a nun herself. Cecil Kelloway and Finlay Currie bring some old school professionalism to their small roles, but not enough to give the film much in the way of color, while Pedro Armendariz's casting as the Sultan inadvertently only highlights how weak the material he has to work with really is. Francis' failed mission to the Holy Land and the breakup of his order are covered in passing, but even they fail to bring any drama to the proceedings, while director Michael Curtiz brings nothing to the party, his old panache presumably having run off with Errol Flynn. It's a rare epic that leaves me with little to say in its favor, but this is certainly one.
The only extra is the theatrical trailer.