It’ll only cost $3 to attend Thursday night’s screening of Nicholas Ray‘s King of Kings at the American Cinematheque. Much of this 1961 Samuel Bronston epic is either pompous or tedious — some of it is painful — but I’d attend anyway if they would present a 70mm print of it, which of course they’re not. Burn me once with a slightly frayed 35mm print of Ben-Hur, shame on them. Burn me twice, shame on me.
The casting of the 37 year-old Siobhan McKenna (37 going on 52) as Mary, mother of Jesus, is ludicrous — a solemn earthy Irish woman straight out of Sean O’Casey and James Joyce with her clearly lined face, alabaster Irish complexion and faintly suppressed Dublin accent.
There are nonetheless five worthwhile things about this film: (a) Miklos Rosza‘s score, particularly the overture; (b) Ron Randell‘s performance as Lucius, the thoughtful, morally conflicted Centurion; (b) Jeffrey Hunter‘s lead performance during the last third; (d) the shots that show perfect focus in both the foreground and background (which was pretty amazing during a time in which films would commonly rack focus to catch the foreground or background, but never both); and (e) the eloquent narration by Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury is going to show up before the show and talk about his work on the film.