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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 17 October 2015
This is definitely my favourite Jesus movie.I first saw it at the age of 14 and I was at once enchanted not only by the wonderful scenery and the excellent performance of the actors but also by the beautiful music and,last but not least,the enthralling voice of Orson Welles narrating the story of the birth ,life and death of Jesus.This film is a true asset to the movie collection of any fancier of bibilical films.
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For all its low reputation, Samuel Bronston's much-mocked King of Kings is easily the best and most intelligent of the `devotional' versions of the life of Christ, largely because it sets Jesus as a historical figure and, to a degree, a victim of history and politics in troubled times. More importantly, it manages to do it without being as relentlessly dreary and one-note as George Stevens' The Greatest Story Ever Told, which becomes more of an endurance test with each passing year. Even the vigorously-staged battle scenes serve a real dramatic purpose, pitting Barabbas' Davidic warrior would-be Messiah against Jesus' spiritual deliverer ("I am fire, he is water - how can we ever meet?") that is many ways the real conflict of the film: the fight between material pragmatism (the Romans, Herod, Barabbas) and spiritual idealism (Jesus and his followers). Even Caiphas is given a very modern reading, not as a black-hearted villain but as an unpopular Roman-appointed religious leader who genuinely cares for his flock, fearing that Jesus' popularity could be used by the Romans to start a Holocaust that will destroy his people.

There's much imagination at work too: while Jeffrey Hunter's Messiah suffers from MGM's insistence on redubbing the part in more `masterful' tones, he proactively interacts with the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount, played almost like a press conference, while the Last Supper takes its visual design not from Da Vinci but from the CND's peace symbol. The casting IS variable - Robert Ryan's John the Baptist, Hurd Hatfield's Pontius Pilate, Harry Guardino's Barabbas, Ron Randell's centurion, Guy Rolfe's Caiphas and Gregoire Aslan and the great Frank Thring as Herod Sr. and Jr. are fine, but Rip Torn is surprisingly awkward as an otherwise well-conceived Judas Iscariot doomed by compromise, Royal Dano's Simon Peter is a better idea on paper than onscreen (particularly when given dialog) and Siobhan McKenna's eminently punchable misty-eyed Mary is a tad too Oirish Catlic for my tastes. Yet despite its weaknesses and the virtual sidelining of Jesus for much of the running time - this is more a film about His times and His effect on those around Him than His life - it's never less than totally involving, and often genuinely moving.

Despite reputedly losing interest in post-production, Nicholas Ray's direction is excellent, his mastery of the wide screen making great use of the 70mm format and showing real inspiration in his handling of some of the miracles, scenes greatly enhanced by Miklos Rozsa's superlative score. Even Ray Bradbury's poetic narration, beautifully delivered by Orson Welles, originally intended as a quick fix to paper over the cracks in the narrative, genuinely adds to the film's complex political picture of an occupied territory. Not that some of the cracks aren't still visible, as in the meaningful exchange of looks on the Temple steps between Jesus and Richard Johnson (whose constantly changing part - one day a freed gladiator, the next an Arab, the next a Romanized Jew - was otherwise totally deleted). But they're minor complaints in an extraordinary epic that achieves more of its ambitions than its given credit for.

Incidentally, how on earth did they get the obscene graffiti on the barracks walls past the censors in 1961? Less obvious on the DVD copy, you can't miss it on the 70mm prints!

Warner's DVD is a beautiful transfer and, unlike MGM/UA's slightly cropped laserdisc issue, in the correct aspect ratio. Extras are thin, though - a teaser trailer and brief newsreel footage. The all-region Blu-Ray release includes the newsreel footage and the longer trailer for the film's general release.
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on 27 January 2017
A excellent biblical films I have seen. It goes in great detail about the life of Jesus from his birth and him walking through the desert and where Satan tries to tempt him but fails to final days of his life. One of the other reason that this is a good film is that it not only focuses on him but also people such as John of Baptist and King Herod and Judas and also Barabbas and his ill thought out attempt to overthrow the rule of Herod and his Rome masters such as Ponteix Pilate. I would recommend this film because it is well acted and also well researched and it main strength is it does not make it all about Christ but about his times and also the people around at that time I would recommend.
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I think a previous reviewer fails to comprehend the importance of deeply understanding how the Jewish world in which Jesus lived and the Roman occupation the inhabitants of Judea endured are to really appreciating the message Jesus came to give us. I refer specifically to the expectation that the Jewish people had that Jesus deliver them from the Romans using his power in their physical world when Jesus was about delivering humanity from sin to everlasting life in an eternal unseen world. I recall the part where Jesus comes to visit John the Baptist informing Lucius that he has come to free John. Baffled, Lucius asks Jesus just how he plans to free John outside the prison walls. Jesus replied that he plans to free John WITHIN the prison walls. I also would suggest to any reviewer who might be similarly critical that they read Jim Bishop's book The Day Christ Died. This book originally published in 1957 and again released in 1991 gives the reader an indepth look at the life of Jesus Christ, the man, as he struggled between the human and divine side of his persona. I think if this reviewer would read that he or she would understand why this was incorporated into this film.

The film itself is phenomenal. I have been watching it since it first came out in 1961, almost on an annual basis, for years only on television. I was so happy when I finally was able to purchase a video of it and now I am buying a DVD. They just do not make movies like this anymore. I have seen a number of actors attempt to play Jesus but none with the depth of passion that Jeffrey Hunter did in this movie. The scene where John the Baptist meets Jesus in the river, looking him in the eye and realizing that he has no sin and thus no need to be baptized; the scene were John the Baptist is reaching up his hand to touch the hand of Jesus from outside the prison cell where John is confined; the scenes of the miracles that Jesus performed; the Sermon on the Mount; and the Passion and Crucifixtion of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are so powerful. The movie is truly an outstanding work of art to treasure for all generations.
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on 22 September 2015
One of the most beautiful films made, even if it's a bit cheesy in places. Conveys the biblical story very well.
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on 1 July 2007
Critics at the time panned this movie as "I was a Teenage Jesus", etc., which was extremely unfair.

I am not a particularly religious person, but I found this story of Christ's life extremely moving and sincere. Even if you do not believe in him as God, he comes across as a noble and charismatic figure worthy of admiration. The plot retells the biblical story more as less traditionally: this is what you expect to see. The musical score by Rosza is, as usual, excellent.

When I used to run a cinema club, I put on special showings of this movie for religious groups. They were totally overwhelmed, many leaving in tears after the final scenes of crucifixion nad resurrection. Though the crucifixion scenes are deeply affecting, the gratuitous and disgusting violence of "The Passion of the Christ" has thankfully been avoided.

Having projected this film many times over, I found it a profoundly disturbing experience; it does make you wonder about your beliefs or lack of them.
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on 5 June 2004
(jeffrey hunter)
When are you going to produce more films on DVD of this high calibre on REGION 2.
I am anxious and waiting - why is America always in front of us.
Please, Please start producing now.
yours sincerely
Mr K J Holmes
--------------
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on 20 July 2005
"King of Kings" is somewhat tame compared to many other films on the life of Jesus, but is still nevertheless well worth watching. It does not have the grandeur and visual beauty of the George Stevens "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), or the intensity of the silent Cecil B. DeMille "King of Kings" (1927) that it is supposed to be based on, but it is always reverential towards its subject matter, even if at a rather slow pace. Many of the events told in the Gospels are simply read, rather than depicted, and this job goes to a Roman named Lucius (well played by Ron Randell), and the magnificent voice of Orson Welles as narrator. There is also a fair amount of extraneous material in trying to describe the political climate of the time, and to expand on the life of Jesus.
Jeffrey Hunter, an underrated actor during his short lifetime and handful of films, is a handsome Jesus, with crystal blue eyes, and is very effective in the temptation in the desert, and the Sermon on the Mount. His youthful good looks made some people nickname this film "I Was a Teenage Jesus," even though Hunter was in his mid 30s at the time. Others in the cast are Siobhan McKenna as Mary, Harry Guardino as Barrabas, Rip Torn as Judas, and Hurd Hatfield as Pontius Pilate. Robert Ryan makes a good, grizzled John the Baptist, and of all the film Salomes, Brigid Bazlen is the best. Her voluptuous seduction of a drunken, lascivious Herod (Frank Thring) is terrific storytelling and quite believable.
Directed by Nicholas Ray, the film has a grand score by Miklos Rozsa, and the cinematography, shot on location in Spain, is by Manuel Berenguer. In my extensive "Jesus" film collection, this is the one I play the least, but it has value in many of its performances, and as a comparison to other films of this theme. Total running time is 170 minutes.
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With Easter fast approaching this triumphant blu ray transfer, of Ray's impressive film, is perfect viewing. It is probably the best version of the life of Christ ever put on film. The performance of the late Jeffrey Hunter is quite extraordinary. The script is literate, the direction avoids many of the pitfalls inherent with such a subject, and the photography absolutely stunning. The audio and video transfer is phenomenal and provides great detail, stunning colour, great black levels, and a broad sound spectrum. Extras are interesting too. A totally recommended, and deeply moving film which I would encourage you to purchase.
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on 26 October 2016
Even though this wonderful epic movie is repeated on the tv mostly annually, this DVD is worth buying, for repetitive viewing. I record various programs on my set top box, but if that box malfunctions, problems arise. If you want something very much then it is worth buying DVDs. Jeffrey Hunter was my childhood view of Jesus Christ and I still can relate to him as Christ in this excellent movie now, as a much older person. Excellent movie at a quality price. Another tv movie I would also recommend very highly is, Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth. Brilliant DVDs from Amazon. I must admit, I'm juggling between these two Actor Christs. Well done Amazon for bringing such great Actors and their portrayals of Christ to us on DVD. Brilliant film, excellent acting, especially from Jeffrey Hunter.
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