Wednesday, June 3, 2009

King of Kings: A Masterpiece made by a King





Art has been brought back to life. This great flm was released 81 years ago. Its visual quality is rare. It is as if you are witnessing the work of Leonardo Da Vinci. The scenes of crucifixion and its aftermath are chilling. The wind blown leaves and lightning flashes are breathtaking. The 1928 soundtrack, an excellent composition by Hugo Reisenfeld, includes a chorus of voices - screaming, wailing and moaning along with the action on the screen bringing this silent film to a new height. The earthquake scenes are remarkably effective. You can't beat the final two minutes of the film as Jesus leaves his disciples in a radiant glow to the lovely strains of 'Abide with Me.' Reisenfeld in his score has used flashes of Liszt's 'Les Preludes' and Wagner's 'Parsifal' themes. Then a modern skyline appears to a full chorus and orchestra rendition of'Rock of Ages.'
This film was made in 1927 and completed in 1928. H.B. Warner plays Jesus. Another noteworthy performance is by Rudolph Schildkraut playing Caiaphas. Cecil .B. DeMille is the master craftsman who basked in the spotlight continuously from the early silent period to the age of Cinemascope and stereophonic sound. For cinema as an art form, Demille returned it to the most primitive bread-and-circuses spectacle. He had an unshakeable cultural dominance and longevity with the big audience. The Ten Commandments in 1923 was his first biblical epic.
When Christ is risen, the film medium itself rejoices in a four minute blaze of early two-strip Technicolor. The great showstopper is inevitably the crucifixion. When Jesus breathes his last, the inkiest of storm clouds descend, lightning blazes and gigantic fissures in the earth swallow up half the studio of Central Casting. It is a stupendous exhibition by any standard. You can practically smell the sawdust and the greasepaint. This movie is a genuinely uplifting experience.