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The Jews are taken from Jerusalem and made slaves by King Nebuchadnezzar. In the meantime Cyrus, king of the Persians, who has been living as a shepherd, is proclaimed king and defeats Nebuchadnezzar.Written by
Salvatore Santangelo <email@example.com>
I remember seeing William Castle's "Slaves of Babylon" at the local cinema on a Saturday afternoon during the 1950's; it was one I looked forward to.
Viewing it after 60 years is a bit like revisiting the place you lived in when you were a child - everything seems much smaller.
The film is set around 550 BC, after the Jews have been enslaved in Babylon for many decades. Their leader, Daniel, has a certain influence with King Nebuchadnezzar, but the Babylonians are cracking down on the worship of any god but their own, a dude called Bel Marduk - "Slaves of Babylon" may have relevance for today after all.
Daniel has a vision that the only way the Jews can return to Jerusalem is to find a young shepherd named Cyrus who is destined to become the king of Persia and defeat the Babylonians. Daniel dispatches a trusted follower, Nahum (Richard Conte) to locate the lad.
Nahum discovers that Cyrus is a callow youth who will no doubt end up drag racing donkeys unless taken in hand. Nahum also learns that Cyrus is keen on a princess named Panthera.
Linda Christian plays Panthera, and she is still one of the few reasons to see this movie. A minor actress maybe, but her off-screen life was far more interesting than any character she ever played. She was a magnet for rich and famous men and it's easy to see why, she was gorgeous.
Meanwhile Daniel has spent the night in the lion's den on the orders of Nebuchadnezzar. However when the door is opened, Daniel is standing unharmed, bathed in a shaft of light surrounded by purring lions, a tableau straight out of Illustrated Stories from the Bible.
Panthera falls for Nahum, but he has a plan for her so complex that you really need to see the movie to comprehend it all. What isn't complex in "Slaves of Babylon" are the sets; that sage advice to young actors about not bumping into the scenery applies doubly here because they would probably burst through it if they did.
After some lacklustre battles - fought in front of those Californian rocks familiar from scores of movies and television shows - Cyrus attacks Babylon, and Daniel's prophecies come true.
I enjoyed seeing "Slaves" again, but nostalgia played a part in that for sure. The whole film has a quality not unlike the naïve tapestries that we see when Nahum visits Cyrus' foster parents.
This was William Castle's last foray back into ancient times - he already had "Serpent of the Nile" under his belt. From here he went on to more contemporary pieces such as "Homicidal" - no doubt serious historians everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
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