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December 1994, Week 2


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 10 Dec 1994 09:08:15 CST
text/plain (38 lines)
Author:  [log in to unmask] (edwin jahiel) at SMTP-LINK
Date:    12/9/94 11:45 AM
[Editor's note:  This message was submitted to SCREEN-L by the "Author" noted
above, not by Jeremy Butler.]
I dug up a capsule I had written once about one of the funnier antiquity films.
LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (1955) Howard Hawks directed this spectacular about
the building of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. William Faulkner was one of
the three scenarists, and as it happened often during his movie days, he
had not the slightest notion of what was going on. If not in his cups, he
must have been chortling -- unless he felt sick at what he had to do for
Cast includes Jack Hawkins trying to take himself seriously as the divine
ruler,  Joan Collins as a flamboyantly evil princess,  the famous Greek
thespian Alexis Minotis, the gruff James Robertson Justice, Sydney Chaplin,
many supporting actors, thousands of extras.
Music by Dmitri Tiomkin, impressive photography and production values, art
direction by the great Alexander Trauner.
Unwittingly, this movie is very funny as camp -in every way : sets, music,
speech, the masses of people, the unholy mix of Western actors,their
British accents and more. It is cynical filmmaking in which we are told
that the Pyramids were built by hordes of volunteers. Quote from the solemn
narration :
"They labored over a year ...and still they sang"
But then things changed. Quote again: "Years passed. Now it is the drum and
the whip."
Picture looks intimidating on TV, so you can imagine what its CinemaScope
picture is like on a large screen where the logistics and statistics become
so much more grandiose. The ending has a surprise twist. Not too long, this
silly film is worth watching for unintended laughs. (Edwin Jahiel)