Samson and Delilah
High biblical camp flourished during Hollywood’s golden age; and nobody carried it off like Cecil B. De Mille. In silents like "King of Kings," he tested the waters; and, by the 1956 "Ten Commandments" he was parting them. In 1949, he produced the monumental kitsch-fest, "Samson and Delilah." The film is imbued with all the characteristic DeMille touches: garish color, spectacular sets, ornate costume, complex crowd scenes and overwrought acting, yet it is one irresistible bit of story-telling!
Although Hayworth, Hayward and Turner were considered for the role of Delilah, Hedy Lamarr landed the part, and, in spite of her heavy Eastern-European accent, was fairly convincing. Preferring Steve Reeves for Samson, DeMille was saddled with beefy Victor Mature, and was not pleased. Actually, Mature proves serviceable in the role, though does look rather silly wrestling a lion that came directly from the taxidermist rather than the caves of Philistia. As Delilah’s sister, Semadar, the indestructible Angela Lansbury is entertaining. An adolescent Russ Tamblyn shines as the feisty, future King Saul. Nearly stealing the show, George Sanders is wonderfully smarmy as the Philistine ruler Saran, who attempts to keep Samson well "under wraps."
Last year, "Samson and Delilah" underwent an elaborate digital restoration; and, for the first time, the film is being released on DVD by Paramount. The results are remarkable. Previously available on VHS-tape and bootleg DVDs, the film has never looked as sharp and detailed. The color is wonderfully vivid --often breathtaking. The final destruction of the temple proves truly awesome, even to our jaded eyes. Sadly, the DVD includes no special features. But if you are partial to sword-and-sandal epics, or high camp, the new "Samson and Delilah" is well worth the investment.
Samson and Delilah