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In eighteenth-dynasty Egypt, Sinuhe, a poor orphan, becomes a brilliant physician and with his friend Horemheb is appointed to the service of the new Pharoah. Sinuhe's personal triumphs and tragedies are played against the larger canvas of the turbulent events of the 18th dynasty. As Sinuhe is drawn into court intrigues, and bizarre secrets are revealed to him, he learns the answers to the questions he has sought since his birth. Short on historical accuracy but strong on plot and characterization. Written by
At a cost of $5 million, the film took two years to research, the designers ultimately cataloging five million items of clothing and properties. See more »
The real Sinuhe was a courier of Amenemhat I, not Akhnaton. See more »
[Older Sinuhe voiceover]
I, Sinuhe the Egyptian, write this. In my place of exile on the shores of the Red Sea. There is no more desolate spot on earth. Soon the jackals and the vultures will make a poor meal of what is left of me. No monument will mark my resting place. I will leave only this, the story of my life. I have lived fully and deeply. I have tasted passion, crime and even murder. It is for you to judge me. You must weigh the good against the evil, the passion against the...
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Maybe it's just a personal affection for this screen version of the Mika Waltari novel, or a fondness for things Egyptian (I grew up loving to visit the mummies in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts) but I think Maltin is a tad tough on this rather good film. The production values are great regarding color and cinematography, and it appears some effort went into historical authenticity (much of it from the novel, I'm sure). Purdom is admittedly a bit stiff in the lead role, but one can accept this as part of Sinuhe's character. Victor Mature is, well, Victor Mature. Peter Ustinov is a delight to watch in this type of role, which he always did so well and so wittily. Bella Darvi's performance as Nefer is classically camp, and I find even Michael Wilding's rather dry portrayal of Akenaten to have its own appeal.
The historical oddity of Akenaten's monotheism, a brief detour in ancient Egypt's theological history, is interesting, as is Akenaten himself, and well worth reading about; the religious wars portrayed here have a basis in fact.
An interesting footnote regarding Darvi, whose birth name was Bayla Wegier: she was a Polish émigré who producer Darryl Zanuck and his wife Virginia took under their wing (I believe they may even have adopted her). Her screen name Darvi is formed from Zannuck's and his wife's first names. She continued her acting career in France, but never achieved great success and, after a rather unhappy life, died at her own hand in 1971.
Altogether this is an interesting film and enjoyable to watch for the visual values alone. American Movie Classics shows this occasionally in letterbox, which is essential to capturing the scope and sweep of the story.
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