Dir: Stanley Kubrick
October 27, 2009
I have always avoided watching this like the Plague, and now I'm not sure why I thought it would be awful. This film is pretty much the perfect vehicle for an actor like Kirk Douglas, and as he was the executive producer with almost all creative control (which led to a clash with Kubrick), it's pretty much his movie. There is nothing definitively "Kubrick" about this film apart from the occasional visual flair and the fact that he is pretty much the cinematographer as well. Kubrick was only brought in because Douglas fired Anthony Mann after a week of shooting, probably for the same reason that arguments broke out with his new, much younger director. The film is about showcasing actors in an epic environment, and some are great, like Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton, mixed in with some bad ones, like John Dall (whose intended naivete comes across as just plain awful; I also disliked him in Rope (1948), one of my least favorite Hitchcock films.) As for Douglas, he acts, as all "movie-stars" do, as the same character he always portrays, and in a film like this, it works, unlike in Paths of Glory (1957). Ham it up, Kirk! Seriously though, if you can enjoy a film like Ben-Hur (1959), then from a pure entertainment standpoint, there's no reason why you won't enjoy this. Sure, I rolled my eyes a few times, but it's kinda part of the whole deal. It's a big, epic film that's supposed to please. Actors like Tony Curtis were brought onto the picture for just more "star power." That's not to say that I wouldn't shit on a completely worthless monstrosity, like most of the DeMille films that I've seen, but there is also some artistic merit to a film like this. This is no Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but few films are.