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"Samson and Delilah" is obviously supposed to be something special. It starts off with a three minute overture against a blank screen (tinted royal blue), and the management bilks you out of a buck and a quarter to get in. In addition, the whole shebang is filmed in "glorious technicolor with a cast of thousands." Certain of the scenes were actually taken in the Holy Land, and DeMille caused a huge cork temple to be built which was destroyed in the cosmic finale. Yet "Samson and Delilah" is in actuality merely pretentious and unusually dull.
In the first place, it is too long, running a little over two hours. The action contained in the story cannot possibly sustain it for such length. In the second place, it contains a series of lush scenes, depicting people fondling jewels and purchasing bolts of cloth, which have only the remotest connection with the plot and are in themselves boring and trite. In the third place, the characters insist upon talking in some sort of Biblical patois, a bastard St. James version of English, which succeeds only in producing considerable confusion and some ludicrous metaphors. In the fourth place, the acting is ridiculously wooden. Hedy Lamarr spends almost all of her waking hours draped on a half-dozen strategically placed divans or leaning against a tentpole, apparently the B.C. equivalent of a lamppost. And she rushes from divan to tentpole with such speed and determination that you begin to wonder whether old C. B. DeMille has lost his touch. In the fifth place, Victor Young's musical score is monotonous and sounds like bad Khatchatourian.
There are, however, two excellent scenes--the first when Samson beats the bejabbers out of the whole Philistine army and the second when he pulls down the cork temple and precipitates a riot. The patrons also get very familiar with Hedy Lamarr's midriff by the time the picture ends, thanks to some most imaginative costuming. This is as it should be.
But by the time I crawled out of the Paramount theater, I somehow wished that DeMille wasn't such a Bible fan after all. Spectacles and morals somehow don't mix; it's like holding a revival meeting in the Latin Quarter.
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