Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

THE EGYPTIAN

Edmund Purdom
THE EGYPTIAN (1954). Director: Michael Curtiz.

"You are mad, sire, but your madness is more beautiful than the visions of other men."

Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) is a doctor to the poor who gets an appointment as royal physician when he saves the life of Pharaoh Akhnaton (Michael Wilding), whose mother Taia (Judith Evelyn) knows much more about the orphaned doctor's true history than she's letting on. Sinuhe comes under the spell of the Babylonian bitch Nefer (Bella Darvi), who essentially steals everything away from Sinuhe, including his adoptive parents' home and burial tomb [for this Sinuhe bears as much responsibility as Nefer, if not more]. Apparently not learning his lesson, Sinuhe becomes a physician only for the rich, but eventually comes into conflict with his old friend, Horemheb (Victor Mature), when the Hittites threaten an attack. Pharaoh is against violence, but doesn't understand that Egypt still must be defended. When both Horemheb and Akhnaton's cold sister, Baketemon (Gene Tierney) importune Sinuhe to poison Pharaoh, will he comply, especially after he learns the truth about his heritage ...? The Egyptian tells a good story, and mostly tells it well, even if the drawn-out ending, and Sinuhe himself, become oppressively and tediously pious. In the lead role, Edmund Purdom [The Strange Intruder] has a commanding presence, and is not a bad actor, even if there are times you wished he showed just a little more passion. Jean Simmons [Angel Face] is excellent as the woman who loves him throughout good times and bad, and Bella Darvi offers a sophisticated and mesmerizing portrait of a woman who could easily be called the "whore of Babylon." Wilding and Tierney are fine as the brother and sister, as are Victor Mature [Kiss of Death]; Peter Ustinov as the slave Kaptah; little Tommy Rettig as Sinuhe's son; and Judith Evelyn, who nearly walks off with the movie in her one scene with Purdom. The picture has impressive sets and also boasts a wonderful score composed by both Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann (and yes, you can tell who composed which section).

Verdict: Flawed but highly interesting look at ancient Egyptian culture -- with a little Hollywood soap opera thrown in. ***.

3 comments:

angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, these Fifties biblical epics are all such great fun...this one is always worth a watch. I love the costumes, the pageantry, the tanned torsos, and in this case, the bonus of handsome Victor Mature! Thanks for highlighting this fun, escapist fare.
-Chris

William said...

My pleasure -- I think Mature was under-rated as an actor. While there doesn't appear to be a major bio on the actor, there is a work on his films that I might acquire. I doubt if this movie had that much to do with the real Egypt, but you're right that it is fun, especially evil Bella Darvi!

Samantha Williams said...

He was one of the great Film Director of history and the classic movie The Egyptian was one of the greatest classic film that I ever watched.