Thursday, March 05, 2009

King of Kings (1961)

King of Kings is a 1961 film of the life of Christ directed by Nicholas Ray. It stars Jeffrey Hunter (who has an important Star Trek connection) as Jesus. Rip Torn plays Judas. The music is by Miklos Rozsa. It opens with a Roman invasion of the Temple, Herod's appointment as king and the promise of a Savior.

The entire film is not available for viewing online that I can find, though someone at youtube has uploaded the video in parts with an alternate musical background instead of the original sound. The first 10 minutes of the real thing can be seen below (via Yahoo! video)[gone as of 2/17/2010]. trailer:

This is the Sermon on the Mount scene: [gone as of 2/17/2010]

The New York Times review is not positive. Variety likes it. TCM has an overview. Bible Films Blog has mixed feelings:
Thankfully it is possible to peer through the rubble of the finished film to glimpse what it might have been. In fact, in places the film really soars.

FilmFanatic calls it a "“respectful” historical drama" and says it is
best when humanizing iconic biblical events, such as the justly praised Sermon on the Mount sequence, and their intimate recreation of the Last Supper; less interesting are the massive battle scenes, which perhaps are expected fare in an epic drama but distract from the very real human story being told.


  1. I own this one in my 20+ "Jesus Films" collection. To be frank, I found the pacing off -- I wonder now if it's more that today's viewer are used to having more emotional cues. Who knows.

  2. The pacing may have been due more to studio interference than the director's intention. I read something indicating they were trying to be properly respectful while including all the needed epic scenes. Maybe in trying to appeal to everybody they lost their vision. I read it bombed at the box office.