A knight in the service of a duke goes to a coastal villiage where an earlier attempt to build a defensive castle has failed. He begins to rebuild the duke's authority in the face of the ... See full summary »
Franklin J. Schaffner
During the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: General Andrew Jackson has only 1,200 men left to defend New Orleans when he learns that a British fleet will... See full summary »
During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion against foreigners in China, U.S. Marine Major Matt Lewis, aided by British Consul Sir Arthur Robertson, devises a strategy to keep the rebels at bay until an international military relief force arrives.
The story of president Andrew Jackson from his early years, the film begins when he meets Rachel Donaldson Robards. The plot concentrates on the scandal concerning the legality of their marriage and how they overcame the difficulties.
After the murder of her lover Caesar, Egypt's queen Cleopatra needs a new ally. She seduces his probable successor Marc Antony. This develops into real love and slowly leads to a war with the other possible successor - Octavius.
Pope Julius is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When not on the battlefield uniting Italy, the Pope nags Michelangelo to speed up his painful work on the frescoes. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Spencer Tracy was offered the role of Pope Julius. See more »
Giovanni de' Medici (Pope Leo X) is portrayed in this movie as an older man in this film, however he was only in his 30s when the Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted and only 37 when elected Pope. See more »
Harrison steals the show in an overblown movie with terrific sets
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
Coming with the American rush to "love art" in the 1950s and 60s (including the famous visit of the real Mona Lisa to America by boat), "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a touchstone of how to make a hero of an artist and make him or her human, too. That's the key, you know--the artist has to be ribald and earthy but also transcendent, almost beyond his knowing.
That's the flawed paradigm at work here. We learn nothing about how Michelangelo's art was made--how it was painted. Nor how it was devised or inspired--the image of God in the clouds doesn't cut it for me. And we actually learn nothing about the real man--Charlton Heston's interpretation is fair enough, I suppose, but it's really just the necessary cliché of a talented (handsome) man tossed around by forced bigger than him.
What is supposed to drive the movie, and in a way saves it as a piece of entertainment, is the presence of the penny-pinching Pope, played by Rex Harrison (of "My Fair Lady" and "Julius Caesar" fame). His haranguing about the ceiling is blithe and fun. And Heston's complaining as he creates his masterpiece (with plaster dripping on his face--actually pudding in the shoot) is a foil for the Pope more than anything. Oddly, the Pope is a stronger character than the artist, and if history is at all right, we get the sense it was the other way around.
What is terrific about the movie is the set--a replica of the Sistine Chapel in a nearby movie studio. They gave them freedom to shoot it in all different phases of the painting, with and without scaffolding, night and day, and it's pretty marvelous to see it unfold in a way not so far from what must have been the truth.
Another bit of truth snuck in during these last days of the Hays Code: when someone comes looking for Michelangelo in the whore house, the prostitute goes hysterical laughing because, of course, he would never be found there. The artist was gay, and the world knew it then and knows it now, and the filmmakers get a clever wink in.
Another highlight is the incredible marble quarry in Carrara, a real place with what really is the best (seamless, pure, easily sculpted) marble in the world. Lucky it was nearby ancient and Renaissance Rome, both.
Don't avoid this movie at all, but don't expect anything truly penetrating. It's aggrandizing, it's formulaic, it's well filmed, and Harrison is in great form. But director Carol Reed ("The Third Man") chickened out a bit in a chance to push the boundaries a little harder.
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