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||IMDB Rating: 6.6/10 from 2,335 votes
||Release: 17 December 1954 (West Germany) /
||Genre: Drama, History
||Director: Michael Curtiz,
||Stars: Anitra Stevens, Bella Darvi, Carl Benton Reid, Edmund Purdom, Gene Tierney, Henry Daniell, Jean Simmons, John Carradine, Judith Evelyn, Michael Wilding, Peter Ustinov, Tommy Rettig, Victor Mature
||Synopsis: In eighteenth-dynasty Egypt, Sinuhe, a poor orphan, becomes a brilliant physician and with his friend Horemheb is appointed to the service of the new Pharoah. Sinuhe's personal triumphs and tragedies are played against the larger canvas of the turbulent events of the 18th dynasty. As Sinuhe is drawn into court intrigues, and bizarre secrets are revealed to him, he learns the answers to the questions he has sought since his birth. Short on historical accuracy but strong on plot and characterization. Written by Molly Malloy
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One of the most pleasurable aspects of movie viewing is to get lost in
a film. To have it totally wash over you, so that you absorb it as it
is, and thus, experience it to the fullest. Every time I see it, 'The
Egyptian' is such a film. Over the years it is a picture critics have
loved to hate. Many have thrown darts at its vulnerabilities. But
perhaps it is because of the very tone the film brings with it rather
than its most obvious characteristics. It is at once forbidding,
remote, possibly dangerous; beware of what lies within! The haunting
chords of the music, seen over the 20th-Fox logo, usher us into titles
of other-worldly turquoise lettering.
Strange! Archaeological! Decadent! It is as if we are descending into
some vault of antiquity, wherein might be great treasures, mixed with
uncertain hazards. (One might imagine Darryl Zanuck commanding: 'Make
it ancient!') Then, what a darkly dramatic story unfolds, all within
the same tone set at the start.
Of Hollywood's mid-50s 'Egyptian Trilogy', 'The Ten Commandments'
portrayed the civilization's sternness, the phenomenal 'Land of the
Pharaohs' its nuts and bolts, while 'The Egyptian' shows it all, from
glamour to tragedy, for us to wonder at.
No need to say much about the players here, but I think that, with the
passage of time, Bella Darvi is being redeemed. What a perfect face for
the role, right out of a Symbolist painting. If her acting does not
please some, it might be argued that, in her role as a 'courtesan', she
is obviously better in bed than yakking to some poor helpless admirer.
I think that Curtiz captured the kinkiness of her sado-masochistic
relationship with Edmund Purdom's character with aplomb, censorship
being what it was at the time. Sir Peter Ustinov, in his memoirs, was
pretty kind to 'The Egyptian', writing that it was 'like being lost in
a huge set for 'Aida'. His pronunciation of the word 'beer' I have
adopted myself ever after.(One of the film's historically accurate
references: the Egyptian's invented beer!) Henry Daniell, egads, what a
perfect performance. Gene Tierney, what a screen treasure. Bless DFZ
for giving her this 'late' role. C'mon folks, don't be so hard on
Victor Mature! He's a cheesemaker's son! Who rose to be pharaoh! Sounds
like a peculiarly American opportunity. One of the best moments: John
Carradine's existential observations on the sands of time. And Purdom's
utterance about dwelling beyond the sunset of the world. If that isn't
Grade 'A' epicness, what is?
Of course, along with everything else, the music is sublime. It is
frequently noted that Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann created one of
the screen's most compelling scores, perfectly harmonious, yet each
theme is well developed, with a life of its own. Newman, pressed for
time by DFZ, called in Herrmann, someone he could trust implicitly, to
take up half the burden.
Benny, not the easiest guy to work with, obviously respected Newman
enough to really deliver inspiring music. They alternated cues, an
ingenious approach. No spoilers as to who did what here, but Benny
brings an edge with him, mysterious, awesome sounds. Alfred brings
fulsomeness, longing, poignancy. Both are consummately epic. Even when
seen on a squeezed TV print, the effect of seeing the two composers'
names side by side in the main credits, which the ultra-wide anamorphic
screen could comfortably accommodate, is spine-tingling.
Leon Shamroy, the Dean of CinemaScope, does not let us down here. The
lurid greens and moody shadows (probably distortions in all the
terrible TV prints I've seen through the years) perfectly accompany the
multi-dimensional script (by the great Philip Dunne and WB vet Casey
Robinson, whom Curtiz must've brought with him to 20th). How remarkable
it is that Shamroy, who was as much of an institution of cinematography
at Fox as Newman was with music, would lens 'Cleopatra' a few years
later, but in the brighter, sharper images of '60s Todd A-O. These old
studio guys are really heroes of mine.
To me, who wants to fret about all the imperfections and criticism
opportunities in a picture like this? I'd rather yield entirely to its
spell, and dive off into its sea of lavishness, to emerge after the
inspiring climax of 'The End' refreshed, moved, and hungry for more.
And yes, we should cry out to 20th-Fox for a DVD release worthy of
Tags for The Egyptian Full Movie
, Bella Darvi
, Carl Benton Reid
, Edmund Purdom
, Gene Tierney
, Henry Daniell
, Jean Simmons
, John Carradine
, Judith Evelyn
, Michael Wilding
, Peter Ustinov
, Tommy Rettig
, Victor Mature
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