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Joseph AND HIS BRETHREN (Irving Rapper and Luciano Ricci, 1960) **
In the wake of the adoption of the Widescreen process and the consequent increase in popularity of the Biblical subgenre within the realm of the Epic, stories from the Old and New Testament became a much-raided Hollywood commodity during the 1950s and 1960s. It was only a matter of time before the ultra-Catholic Italians got onto the bandwagon and grew another branch into their own in-house brand of the epic that was renamed the peplum.
As would eventually became the custom, veteran Hollywood film-makers – among them Frank Borzage, Raoul Walsh, Jacques Tourneur and Edgar G. Ulmer – were engaged to supervise the production of these cheaper Italian epics and so it is that Irving Rapper – best-known for the schmaltzy but solid Bette Davis vehicles NOW, VOYAGER (1942) and DECEPTION (1946) – became involved with bringing to the big-screen the story of Joseph; subsequently, he would be employed in a similar capacity on PONTIUS PILATE (1962). While the co-director here was one Luciano Ricci – who would later (under the alias of Herbert Wise) be the officially credited director of THE CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964) despite the reported intervention of two others! – the actors who came on board Joseph AND HIS BRETHREN were far better known. Chief among them were Robert Morley (ludicrously hamming it up as Potiphar) and genre staple Finlay Currie (as a dignified Jacob), while the younger roles were entrusted to an eclectic bunch: Geoffrey Horne (in the title role), Belinda Lee (as Potiphar’s deceitful wife, she featured in several of these Italian cheapies and would eventually die tragically within a year in a road accident), Arturo Domenici (as Potiphar’s ambitious counsellor), Terence Hill (as Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin) and Dante Di Paolo (as the main schemer among Joseph’s jealous brothers).
One may wonder why I’m talking about everything else but the film and, unfortunately, that’s because it is no great shakes. While the story was good enough to be remade thrice on celluloid – as a 1974 TV movie by Michael Cacoyannis, yet again for TV in 1995 and as a Dreamworks animated feature in 2000 – not to mention revamped as a musical extravaganza on the stage, the version under review is dreary, dull and unmemorable. Small wonder, then that the film has fallen into public domain and is available on various budget DVDs in an English-dubbed, pan-and-scan, washed out print which further serves to alienate the viewer.
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