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Nicholas Ray
Jeffrey Hunter, Siobhan McKenna, Hurd Hatfield, Ron Randell, Viveca Lindfors, Rita Gam, Carmen Sevilla, Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, Robert Ryan
Writing Credits:
Philip Yordan

Portrays the life of Jesus Christ from his birth to his crucifixion.

Box Office:
$5.037 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Monaural
German Monaural
Italian Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 171 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/29/2011

• “The Camera’s Window of the World” Vintage Featurette
• Premiere Newsreels
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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King Of Kings [Blu-Ray] (1961)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 23, 2011)

One of many Biblical epics to appear in the era, 1961’s King of Kings attempts a fairly straight look at the life of Jesus. In 63 BC, Roman leader Pompey (Conrado San Martín) sacks Jerusalem, desecrates holy temples, kills priests and prepares to make off with the loot he expects to find. Instead, he locates nothing more than ancient runes. He plans to burn them, but in a rare act of kindness, he hands them over to a surviving holy man.

Not that this means good things for the Jews, however. The Romans enslave, murder and generally brutalize/subjugate them. The Jews have little to give them hope other than a prophecy that a leader will soon come to help them.

We go ahead oh, 63 years to find a carpenter named Joseph (Gérard Tichy) and his pregnant wife Mary (Siobhan McKenna). They come to the corrupt city of Bethlehem so she can give birth. Their offspring gains attention – and news of a “Jewish king” scares local leader Herod (Gregoire Aslan) so much that he orders his minions to slay all newborns in the area. Joseph and Mary escape, however, and the child grows up to be Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter). You probably know what happens next.

Of course, that’s the nature of this tale. When you retell the life story of Jesus, obviously the audience will likely bear strong familiarity with the material. As a Biblical epic, King doesn’t do anything remarkably well, but it doesn’t flop either; it provides a reasonably solid take on its topic.

I get the feeling King doesn’t enjoy a particularly good reputation, though I think much of that stems from its reception in 1961; it appears the movie’s become better embraced since then. I think it deserves that boost, as it musters a fairly effective overview of Jesus’ life and times.

Actually, the “times” part becomes one of the movie’s strongest points. Most films of this sort tend to be extremely Jesus-centric, but King offers a broader scope. It offers better than average background for the Roman occupation and related events, so it puts Jesus’ life in context. We don’t simply see a sermon here and a miracle there; we examine these events within a greater framework, and that makes them more involving.

The wide scope does mean a certain level of superficiality, as even with almost three hours at its disposal, King must run through most events pretty quickly. Still, it handles these well enough, and it does especially well when it nears its ending. As they should, Jesus’ last days are given the greatest importance, and the movie delves into those scenes with its strongest sense of power and emotion.

Other scenes lack the same depth, of course, but the movie usually executes them well. King comes with a generally respectable cast of actors who offer generally respectable performances. Hunter got some criticism for his attractiveness; he was mocked for being such a “teen idol Jesus”. I don’t have a problem with his looks, and he brings a nice sense of quiet authority to the role. He doesn’t become the most dynamic Jesus on film, but he handles the part’s requirements with reasonable aplomb.

King does lose some points due to often lackluster production values. Maybe the other big-budget flicks of the era spoiled me, but this one seems a bit cheap at times. It doesn’t muster the grandeur one expects, and it also suffers from some truly awful dubbing; clearly a number of non-native English speakers needed to be looped, and these elements stand out in a negative way.

Despite these problems, King of Kings provides an above-average Biblical epic. While it never quite soars, it manages an interesting take on its topic and gives us something worthwhile.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus D

King of Kings appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. I felt wholly impressed with this terrific presentation.

Most of the time, sharpness looked excellent. A few shots could be a little soft; some of that related to photographic styles, but an occasional image seemed tentative for no logical reason. However, the majority of the flick provided great definition; you’ll find more than a few amazingly tight elements here.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Print flaws also weren’t a factor. A couple of specks cropped up, but that was it; almost the entire flick looked clean and fresh.

Colors soared. The movie presented sumptuous reds and golds, and all other hues appeared full and rich as well. Blacks seemed deep and dense; and shadows demonstrated positive delineation. Only the occasional soft shot created any form of distraction here; most of the movie looked downright amazing.

Though not as dazzling, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack fared well for its age. The soundfield opened the events up to a moderate degree. Most of the information came from score, which showed decent stereo spread and also blended to the surround channels in a modest manner. Effects occasionally demonstrated material from the sides, but these usually remained pretty centered. I noticed no prominent effects from the surrounds; they remained passive partners.

Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and concise; a little edginess occasionally materialized, but most of the lines lacked issues. Music offered the track’s strongest aspects, as the score was warm and vivid. Effects showed a little thinness, but they were clear and mostly free from distortion. All in all, this was a more than satisfactory soundtrack for a 50-year-old film.

Only a few minor extras appear here. A vintage featurette called The Camera’s Window of the World runs three minutes, 55 seconds as it shows elements that factored in the shoot of the sermon on the mount. It’s nice to get a little footage from the set, but this is a basic promo piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find two Newsreels. These include “Impressive Premiere on Two Coasts” (1:47) and “Egyptian Theater Premiere, Hollywood CA” (1:09). Both offer simple shots from the red carpet, though “Egyptian” loses points because it lacks the original audio; instead of introductions, we simply hear score from the movie.

Among an era packed with Biblical epics, King of Kings stands as above-average – not great, but better than many. It provides a broader scope than most and tells its tale in an often engaging manner. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals and good audio but skimps on supplements. The lack of bonus materials disappoints, but the quality of the movie presentation more than compensates.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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