Entertainment » Movies

Samson and Delilah

by Ed Tapper
Contributor
Tuesday Mar 11, 2014
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In the classic 1950 film "Sunset Boulevard," faded screen star Norma Desmond writes a screenplay based on the story of Salome. As she expects the film to mark her triumphant, Hollywood comeback, she exclaims that only one man is capable of directing such a venture -- Cecil B. De Mille. The legendary director had already become synonymous with the high-budget, biblical epic. Coincidentally, he was working in an adjoining Paramount studio on one of his most opulent sword-and-sandal sagas, while Billy Wilder’s noirish classic was being produced. He interrupted his project to make that memorable reunion scene with old friend Gloria Swanson. He then resumed work on what would become one of his campiest classics, "Samson and Delilah."

The much contested role of Delilah ultimately went to exotic beauty Hedy Lamarr; although runner up Lana Turner was given a biblical romp as a gentile siren a few years later in "The Prodigal." Victor Mature possessed the requisite heft and dark good looks for Samson, but De Mille soon became frustrated with Mature’s unwillingness to participate in any of the physical stunts. Blonde ingĂ©nue Angela Lansbury is enjoyable as Delilah’s sister, Semadar, a tasty Philistine morsel who ends up getting skewered -- literally. And who could be more perfect as an imperious and treacherous king than George Sanders? Yet it is the lavish production values that qualify "Samson and Delilah" as a must-see spectacle.

"Shot in the expensive Technicolor process, "Samson and Delilah" is a visual banquet."

Shot in the expensive Technicolor process, "Samson and Delilah" is a visual banquet. The brightly hued, ornate costumes and monumental sets help to offset the kitschy script and stretches of hammy acting. The film was a late bloomer on home video, having been digitally restored, then released for the first time on a commercial DVD about a year ago. Although the DVD was successful from a technical standpoint, it pales beside the Blu-ray edition being released this month by Paramount.

The high-definition mastering lends the color surreal intensity, and the picture quality, crystalline clarity. The large-scale crowd scenes and bacchanals are visually arresting. The final scene of Samson "bringing down the house" still manages to impress in an age when such effects are achieved through computer graphics. The sole shortcoming of the new release is the absence of special features outside of the theatrical trailer. Even a brief documentary on the making of this much-publicized film, its illustrious director, or colorful cast members would have proven a welcome addition.

"Samson and Delilah"
Blu-ray
$22.98
www.paramount.com

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