KING OF KINGS
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The epic story of Jesus Christ’s birth through his resurrection is told in this 1961 historical drama. Released in the days of Overture music and three-hour epics, “King of Kings” follows the life of Jesus, making the groundbreaking decision to show him as a character rather than just in the periphery, as had been done up to this time.
WHAT I LIKED
As a film fan, I can enjoy films from almost any decade. However, for some strange reason, the films of the 60s just don’t click with me. Maybe it’s something about the way they’re shot, or the way they’re paced, but there’s only a scant few that I really enjoy. When looking at a film like “King of Kings,” I need to approach it as a 60s film and realize that it might just not click with me.
But, for the most part, I could get into “King of Kings.” Like “Spartacus” from the previous year, “King of Kings” works as a historical epic. It goes big where it needs to, but it also slows down into intimacy when it can. Being the first film of that modern age that chose to show Jesus as a person, it manages to hold together quite nicely.
As someone who has spent plenty of time in church, hearing the story of Jesus over and over, I could find some interest in “King of Kings” by how it told the stories of the supporting characters, namely Barabbas and Herod. Oddly enough, I was more intrigued by the story of these secondary character that take such a back seat in Sunday school than those of Jesus, which I have heard so many times before.
Oh, and the dance that Salome does for King Herod to bring her the head of John the Baptist? Yeah, I liked that a lot.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
For all the out-of-the-box thinking this movie does to present the life of Jesus with his personal interactions, the movie does seem to just plod along at a steady pace. It never really has the big moment which pushes the envelope, like the battle sequences we saw in the aforementioned “Spartacus.” On the whole, “King of Kings” works as a look back on the films of 1961, but it’s not exactly an thrill ride.
Also, and this is a complaint of many films of this era, the costumes may be excellently made, but they’re all so new. The Roman soldiers look like toys, and all the robes worn by the characters look like they just came off the rack. I’m used to seeing a little more distress in the sets and clothes than were offered in the 60s films.
For such an epic release, this Blu-ray is decidedly un-epic. The movie looks pretty slick, as do most widescreen epics from that day, and the transfer makes it worth a watch for anyone curious about the film. Still, the bonus material is a little thin. There’s a vintage featurette called “The Camera’s Window of the World,” which offers behind-the-scenes insight but it expectedly contrived as most of these from this time.
Additional features include premiere newsreels and the theatrical trailer.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of historical epics and Biblical storytelling in feature films.