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A young Hebrew named Micah, unsatisfied with his father's rural life, demands his inheritance so he can try his luck in the city. Once in the city he falls under the spell of a beautiful pagan priestess who induces him to squander his money and betray his faith. Only after many trials and tribulations does Micah recover his senses and return home to his forgiving father. Written by
The Prodigal fills in all those bits in the parable of the Prodigal Son that Jesus omitted, and very entertainingly too. It seems junior (Edmund Purdom) got the hots for the high priestess of Astati (Lana Turner) while incurring the wrath of the high priest of Baal and tyrant of Damascus (Louis Calhern) and frittered away his fortune before coming to his senses and leading the people in rebellion against their pagan oppressors. As you might guess from that synopsis, there are more than a few similarities to The Egyptian, not least Edmund Purdom selling his birthright for a second time for bit of nookie with a pagan temptress (he'd do anything for a bit of skirt, that Purdom: did he learn nothing from his experience with Bella Darvi?), although this is a lot less thoughtful and a lot more fun. A rare 50s epic shot in Hollywood rather than Cinecitta, it falls somewhere between De Mille the apprentice child priestess in her miniature chariot drawn by a goat could be straight out of the opening of the silent King of Kings and MGM at its most opulent. There's not much for the mind or the spirit here, but there's plenty to entertain, from Joseph Wiseman hamming away like nobody's business, even doing an imitation of a teapot in one bizarre shot, to the most imaginative Breen Office-approved sadism this side of Sodom and Gomorrah not only do we get willing sacrificial victims swan diving into fiery pits and a fight with a stuffed vulture but when people get the knife, they get it literally in the neck, which is a pretty neat trick. Calhern offers some splendid villainy, Francis L. Sullivan's moneylender plays both ends against the middle with sly wit, Hurd Hatfield lookalike James Mitchell fulfils the mute but acrobatic sidekick duties and director Richard Thorpe ensures it all looks great in CinemaScope.
It ain't art but it is great fun.
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