The temporary physical life of the Biblical Savior, Jesus Christ.The temporary physical life of the Biblical Savior, Jesus Christ.The temporary physical life of the Biblical Savior, Jesus Christ.The temporary physical life of the Biblical Savior, Jesus Christ.The temporary physical life of the Biblical Savior, Jesus Christ.
Nicholas Ray shot this film in Spain with the broad central plain serving as Judea in the early years of AD. Unlike Stevens, Nicholas Ray used second line players for the most part, the biggest name in the cast is that of Robert Ryan as John the Baptist.
Jesus is played by Jeffrey Hunter and if you were to ask today's movie fans what they most remember about Hunter, they will either say his role in the original Star Trek pilot as Captain Christopher Pike, or his two roles in John Ford films, The Searchers and Sergeant Rutledge. Some reviewers have remarked about Hunter's blue eyes, personally I think Nicholas Ray might have cast Hunter with those baby blues to mark Jesus as indeed unique among the populace of Judea. In any event it's a sincere portrayal that Hunter gives. He's most effective in the Sermon on the Mount scene.
King of Kings takes a great deal more liberties with the four Gospels than does the Greatest Story Ever Told. It fleshes out the peripheral characters in the Bible giving them more identity than Scripture does. Barabbas as played by Harry Guardino is a guerrilla leader rather than a bandit and Rip Torn who is Judas is one of his associates who leaves Barabbas after the Sermon on the Mount.
Judas's motives for betrayal are explained as an effort to force Jesus's hand. He wants Jesus to use his power of miracles to aid in the freedom fight against Rome. I think most people view Judas as doing what he did because he totally failed to understand the mission and nature of who he was following, What Ray does here is deepen that context.
There are a few scenes in their besides this part of the storyline that are not biblically found. After Jesus saves Mary Magdalene, Carmen Sevilla as Mary goes searching for him and visits with Mary his mother who is played by Siobhan McKenna. They talk for a bit, McKenna describes some of the miracles attributed to her son.
Jesus himself drops out of biblical dialog in a scene where he asks to visit John the Baptist. The scene is with the Centurion Lucius who was present at the massacre in Bethlehem and later would pronounce His epitaph at the cross. Ron Randell plays Lucius and his Lucius is a world weary professional soldier, sickened by the court of Herod the Great and his successor Herod Antipas. He hates having to serve these people because Rome is backing them as surrogate leaders. Randell has a key role here, he serves as a prototype for the gentiles who Jesus says his disciples must minister to.
Being inveterate star gazer I am, I do like The Greatest Story Ever Told better. But King of Kings is still a fine retelling of that selfsame story.
- Feb 12, 2007