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Samson & Delilah VHS
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Behaving as if it hadn't already been immortalized in Judges, chapters 13-16, Cecil B. DeMille immortalized history's most famous haircut all over again in this 1949 classic of the Epic Saga genre. Victor Mature is a trifle bovine as Samson--which perhaps isn't so inappropriate--but Hedy Lamarr's Delilah is a magnet on fire. Impossibly perfect and sexy, she sashays through the movie in a whole wardrobe of revealing halter tops, bending the men like blades of grass. These days it's hard to enjoy a DeMille film without condescension: from Samson's fight with a lion that might well be stuffed, to the famous collapsing-temple scene, we are constantly aware of how far movies have come, and the Philistines parade around in costumes that won an Oscar but can only remind the modern viewer of Klingon cocktail parties. But in so many other ways this is very classy filmmaking. DeMille takes considerable liberties with the biblical story to come up with a sort of Ur-narrative of love, betrayal, and remorse that you can swallow very nicely with or without its religious ingredient. Best exchange: Lamarr--"You killed him with... your hands. Oh, Samson!" (Jumps on Mature's back.) Mature--"Hey! One cat at a time!" Also stars George Sanders, a very youthful (and miscast) Angela Lansbury, and impassioned music by Victor Young. --Richard Farr
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The fourth film in DeMille's Biblical canon is his most passionate, and its style and structure was responsible for inspiring the highly successful Italian sword and sandal sub-genre a decade later. From the moment that scroll unfurls introducing the opening title - CECIL B. DEMILLE'S SAMSON AND DELILAH - you know you're going to be in for a thoroughly satisfying viewing experience. Offering rip-roaring action, colorful spectacle, and sensual romance all presented in an engaging storytelling manner, this is a masterpiece of the kind only DeMille could make. The picture manages to stay quite faithful to the Bible account in Judges 13-16, with only a few instances where Jesse L. Lasky, Jr. and Fredric M. Frank's script takes dramatic license. For instance, the film depicts Samson's bride and Delilah as sisters whereas the Bible doesn't substantiate such a relationship between them. Also, in the movie Samson is blinded by a red-hot blade held close to his eyes, while in the actual account they're bored out of their sockets. Aside from these textual deviations the film is a largely accurate, vivid dramatization of the most famous romantic betrayal in recorded history.
Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr flesh out definitive portrayals in the lead roles; Mature is beefy and totally at ease playing the straying strongman whose weakness is women, and Lamarr is the epitome of the beautiful seductress who betrays him. The two actors are so perfectly suited as Samson and Delilah, that it's impossible to imagine someone else in their place. The supporting players are also top-notch: George Sanders is superb as the cynical Saran who has both envy and respect for Samson, Angela Lansbury plays Samson's fickle bride-to-be Semadar, and Henry Wilcoxon makes a strong impression as Samson's jealous rival, Ahtur.
The production values of SAMSON AND DELILAH are of the highest quality by 1949 standards, and the film won deserved Oscars for Hans Dreier and Walter Tyler's art direction, Sam Comer and Ray Moyer's set decoration and Edith Head's costumes. Gordon Jennings' special effects department created some spectacular visuals, which still pass muster today. The big climax set in the Philistine Temple of Dagon is a triumph of convincing miniature high-speed photography and integrated live action. George Barnes' Technicolor cinematogaphy is lush and artfully lit, reminiscent of the paintings by Rembrandt. I'd be amiss if I didn't give high praise for Victor Young's fabulous music score which, in my opinion, is one of the finest ever written. Everything about this DeMille extravaganza is done with an expertise and a showmanship that defined an era of great cinematic entertainment.
Paramount Home Video has finally released SAMSON AND DELILAH on Blu-ray and DVD in meticulously restored condition, and it looks and sounds terrific - as good as it must've been on its initial release. This edition contains Victor Young's overture and exit music, which was also on the previous laser disc that served as the source for unauthorized DVD copies of this title. The new edition contains no special features, and has the standard menu options of English, French and Spanish subtitles, and scene selections. The audio is in the original mono.
Something many people today forget is that Cecil B. DeMille was one of the founding fathers of America's film industry. He made movies that were enormously popular with the public because he had an innate understanding of what people wanted and the creative ability to deliver it. SAMSON AND DELILAH demonstrates that inimitable DeMille touch to the fullest degree.
My highest recommendation.
The surprising thing is that although DeMille's version of 'Samson And Delilah' was first released in 1949 ==> upon re-watching in 2017 (on AMAZON video), this film is still Super-entertaining, with a brisk-pace, witty-dialog, fantastically charismatic characterizations, Epic action and a Story that while taking some Liberties, stays true in spirit to the old-testament 'Book of Judges' story of Samson (although DeMille's 'Delilah' is portrayed as a more sympathetic character, with redemptive qualities at film's finale).
Victor Mature presents a down-to-Earth and very 'human' Samson, who even projects an engaging sense of humor at times --- but most certainly exhibits battle-ready ferocity when called for (and the initial death-struggle with the Lion is still quite intense and entertaining), and of course Samson's final act of retribution tearing-down the gigantic Philistine Temple pillars calling upon his full-reservoir of divine Strength in the process, is still quite spectacular to behold ==> without the aide of CGI-effects!
And Hedy Lamarr seems like the 'perfect' embodiment of 'Delilah' in both appearance and attitude, who capitalizes on her irresistibility to fulfill desires and get her way (most times). Hedy Lamarr also exhibits superlative acting and a genuinely charismatic and deeply-indelible 'presence' (in addition, DeMille allows 'Delilah' a bit of redemption at finale, exhibiting genuine love for Samson which results in an uncharacteristic act of self-sacrifice at least in this filmed version).
In any event, Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah" represents one of the Great Hollywood Biblical-Epics that might be a bit more focused on entertainment-value above authenticity but that is also obviously why this film was a huge block-buster in its Day........ and it is a good bet "Samson & Delilah's financial success paved the way for Cecil B. DeMille to produce the much Larger-scale and immortally beloved Epic "The Ten Commandments" in 1956. Note: the picture on this AMAZON video has surprisingly vibrant-color & superlative picture-quality for a nearly 70-year old film (amazing restoration!)
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