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PONTIUS PILATE (Irving Rapper and Gian Paolo Callegari, 1962) **1/2
Best-known for a string of Bette Davis tear-jerkers, director Rapper had previously overseen another Italian Biblical epic, Joseph AND HIS BRETHREN (1960), but he would subsequently direct just two more movies in Hollywood.
Despite a general air of overfamiliarity to the proceedings, the film is quite watchable as it unveils and only falls apart in its last third, when the Jesus trials take center-stage. This is because the figure of Jesus had only been mentioned fleetingly before (even by the Pharisees) and suddenly the whole of Judea turns against him for no apparent reason (other than, it seems, because that's what did happen according to the Bible)! In fact, before this unconvincing about-face, the figure of High Priest Caiaphas (Basil Rathbone) was a sympathetic one fighting with dignity for the plight of his oppressed people. Another uncharacteristic event is the fact that, according to this version, it is Judas (John Drew Barrymore) who convinces the Pharisees that Jesus is dangerous, and it is they alone who capture him at Gethsemane!!
Whatever the flaws in the many-handed script (seven writers in total!), they are redeemed by competent production values and a good cast: Jean Marais (rather stiff in the title role), Jeanne Crain (as Pilate's wife), Leticia Roman (a Judean girl Pilate falls for), Roger Treville (as Roman's powerful merchant father), Massimo Serato (as Nicodemus), Riccardo Garrone (as Pilate's faithful lieutenant), Gianni Garko (as one of a bald-headed[!] Barabbas' rebels) and Raffaella Carra' (as Garko's girl); according to the IMDb, Paul Muller and Dante Di Paolo also appear but, personally, I didn't recognize them! Interestingly enough, the events unfold in flashback at Pilate's own trial before an uncredited Emperor Caligula...with the former using the same silent tactics (and, subsequently, the famous words) as Christ himself did before him!!
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