Thursday, June 5, 2008

Land of the Pharaohs

Land of the Pharaohs; Adventure, USA, 1955; D: Howard Hawks, S: Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Dewey Martin, James Robertson Justice

Ancient Egypt. Pharaoh Khufu returns to his homeland after another successful war and decides to make a pyramid for his tomb. He doesn't like the drawings of his servants so he orders the Jewish architect Vashtar to take charge, and in return he will give his people freedom. 15 years later the pyramid is still not finished so Khufu becomes impatient. Instead of paying the tax, the Cyprians offer him Princess Nellifer and he takes her as his second wife. Vahtar's son Senta saves Khufu's life so he gives him a servant. The jealous Nellifer kills Khufu and his first wife, but gets trapped in the pyramid. The Jews leave.

3 million $ was the budget of this monumental history drama, untypical for director Howard Hawks' opus, but in the US cinema it managed to only gross 1.5 million $. It's a matter of a good achievement, but undoubtedly far from a classic since the characters (Khufu and Nellifer, architect Vashtar and his son), the story and the atmosphere are very ephemera. Still, despite it's too dry approach, it still has a few interesting details, like when the slave workers have to wear bandage on their eyes when they enter the pyramid so that they wouldn't know the way to the tomb of the pharaoh or when Khufu says he is happy that his "parrot speaks only when it's is alone", yet the dated style of such monumental films can be sensed and the illogical situations are often present. For instance, the Egyptians didn't have a crane back then even though the movie shows them using it, and when Khufu attacks the innocent servant because he wrongly thinks he tried to kill him - even though it was Nellifer - he just keeps quiet and fights as if he is really guilty. Joan Collins is very good as Nellifer who is seductive and despicable at the same time.


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