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Alfred E. Green
Edward G. Robinson,
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
A sequel was planned that would have brought back Victor Mature and Gene Tierney but the film's box office was not strong enough and the sequel was never made. 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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Few people realize it, but there was world literature in the ancient world before the Greeks came on the scene. Besides the literary remains that are in the "Old Testament" of the Jews, there were considerable works from Mesopotamia and Egypt. The summit of the former were the religious poetry and "The Epic Of Gilgamesh". The Egyptians produced many poems, but there main addition was a tale of adventure of a traveler and physician called "The Story Of Sinuhe". It is from this work (actually a fragment, that we don't know the ending of) that the novel "The Egyptian" came from.
The story is unique (as is the movie). "The Egyptian" was a best seller in the early 1950s, and Darryl Zanuck decided to take a chance making it: yes he wanted a showcase for his girlfriend Bella Darvi as Nefer, as well as the rest of the cast (Victor Mature, Edmund Purdom, Peter Ustinov, Michael Wilding, and Gene Tierney), but he was aware that these films rarely made large box office. One can chalk up this as an example of Zanuck trying something different.
The number of movies that deal with ancient Egypt are very small. "Land Of The Pharoahs", "The Egyptian", "The Ten Commandments" (both De Mille versions), "Moses", "Holy Moses!", "Cleopatra", "The Mummy" (all versions), "The Scorpion King". If there are 20 films about ancient Egypt it's is tremendous. But "The Egyptian" is unique. While the second "Ten Commandments" discusses Ramses the Great (Pharoah Ramses II
Yul Brynner) and his father Seti I (Cedric Hardwicke), and the films
on Cleopatra deal with her, few other names of ancient Egypt crop up in film. Egypt's greatest Pharoah was Thutmose III, who conquered most of the known middle east of the era of 1470 B.C.E. or so. No film about him has appeared, nor of his usurping predecessor, history's first great female ruler Hatschepsut. But the only known Pharoah who attempted a religious revolution that approached what the Jews (and later the Christians) attempted - a type of monotheism - is the subject of "The Egyptian". This is Pharoah Akhnaton.
In reality Akhnaton was practicing a personal form of monotheism that was not meant for public consumption. But it angered the priestly class who worshiped Amon, rather than Aton. Due to our uncertain historic records (although Akhnaton's official records - the "Tel-el-Amana" letters - are quite complete as far as they survive), we do not know if the Pharoah was killed in a palace coup or not. However he died, he was succeeded by a young brother or son of his whose name is better recalled than any other Pharoah except Ramses: Tutankhamon.
This film is actually quite good as far as it goes. Wilding makes a good natured Akhnaton, who is too weak to be as effective as a religious reformer is supposed to be. Mature is good as the ambitious (and - outside the film - ultimately successful future Pharoah) Horemheb. Tierney and Purdom do well in their lead parts and Ustinov is good as Purdom's friend. Also good is Ms Darvi, in a large supporting part. In a wonderful cameo is John Carridine, as a philosophical grave robber. The film is certainly worthy of viewing, as one of the few attempts to show part of the history and culture of Ancient Egypt.
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