The story of the film is adapted from the Old Testament: The Philistines declare war on the Israelites and wrench the Arch of the Allience from them. Saul, the king of Israel, listens meanwhile to the words of the prophets who tell him that the new king will be a young shepard called David. But still David has to fight the enemy in form of their mighty giant Goliath. Written by
This Italian made sand and sandal epic would probably be long forgotten were it not for the presence of Orson Welles as King Saul. Certainly the man who played David in David and Goliath, Ivo Payer, certainly did not enter the ranks of screen immortals.
David and Goliath took as many liberties with scripture as any good Cecil B. DeMille film, but without DeMille's sense of grandeur and spectacle. For instance in this film as a result of the battle where David defeats Goliath and the Philistines are routed, the Ark of the Covenant which the Philistines had captured is returned. Actually those are separate incidents that are not connected at all.
Another thing is that at least I've always interpreted David to be a rather callow youth when he was doing his shepherd thing before God sent Samuel looking for him. And he's still a callow youth when he's in battle with Goliath. The old Negro spiritual is called Little David Play On Your Harp, not without reason.
Ivo Payer is a rather muscular young man looking like he stepped from of those Italian muscle man epics so popular at the time. Of course the sight of all that bare chested beefcake sent many hearts fluttering in the audience. In that sense David and Goliath is right in the DeMille tradition.
The only reason this film is remembered if at all today is because of Orson Welles. Welles at the time was picking up work here and there to finance his own projects. Sometimes it would be something as good as Compulsion the year before, more often it was something like David and Goliath.
Still Welles is a consummate professional and he invests Saul with an air of tragedy about him. At the point we meet Saul, God has already decided he's not the man for the job as King of Israel. But Saul is not about to accept that verdict. If he can't beat David head on, he'll try and co-op David by bringing him into his household and matching him up with his daughter.
And of course there's Saul's son Jonathan. He's there, but none of the business about a gay relationship between David and Jonathan is in this film. Jonathan knows full well that his father has lost favor with the Lord and he's aware of his father's character weaknesses. He too, befriends David more out of a sense of survival than anything else.
English actor Hilton Edwards plays Samuel the Prophet and he comes across as a poor man's version of Finlay Currie. He's the only other English speaking player in the cast besides Orson Welles.
David and Goliath will not pass muster with either biblical scholars or with lovers of big screen spectacle. Still fans of Orson Welles will want to see this film to see how much a great talent can lift even a piece of mediocrity to a level of some respectability.
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