Friday, January 8, 2016

Samson and Delilah

Samson and Delilah; adventure, USA, 1949; D: Cecil B. DeMille, S: Victor Mature, Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, Henry Wilcoxon, Angela Lansbury

Judea, over a 1000 years BC. The Hebrews are ruled and oppressed by the Philistines. Despite of this animosity, Hebrew Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman, Semadar, yet neglects the fact that her sister Delilah is in love with him. After he defeats a lion, Samson is rewarded with the engagement to Semadar, but the wedding guests, among them the jealous Ahtur, start an argument over a bet, which ends with open hostility in which Semadar dies. Samson is hunted down, and is not captured all until the revengeful Delilah seduces him and finds out that the secret of to his strength lies in his long hair. Samson is blinded by Ahtur and held captive, but when his hair grows back, he uses it to crash two pillars and cause the temple of the Philistines to collapse.

The 4th highest grossing film of the 40s of the 20th century, "Samson and Delilah" epitomises Cecil B. DeMille's archaic-safe style of film making: on one hand, it secured him a wide appeal among the audience of that time, but on the other hand, it did not also secure him a permanent value, which is why it is not that engaging for the audience of today's time. He only took care of the audience of his time, not of the audience of all time. DeMille crafts the film in a stiff, conventional way, with only a few refreshing moments in the pompous story (one great example that stands out with ease is the humorous anecdote in which Samson managed to defeat a whole army in a canyon using only the bone jaw of a donkey, which later becomes an embarrassing tale for the commander to report to his superiors, who thus repeat it several time), whereas the overlong running time of over 120 minutes is a burden, and it is not immune to some small moments of religious propaganda. However, there are still some worthy ingredients in this film, especially in the noble messages about self-sacrifice for the greater good, as well as integrity even when faced with obstacles, whereas a few dialogues are surprisingly well written ("A tax collector is worth more than a thousand soldiers", says a governor who raises the taxes to a third until the peasants hand Samson over to the authorities; "I could have loved you with such a fire that it would have made all other feel like ice in comparison") and some stunts are daring (Samson wrestling with a lion),


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