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

Thursday, June 11, 2015


The imposing pyramid-tomb
LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (1955). Producer/director: Howard Hawks.

"Strange religion to deny a future to those who failed in the past."

Pharaoh Khufu (Jack Hawkins) has one main goal, and that is to see that his tomb will be completely safe from violation so he can enjoy his treasures in the after-life. Learning that many other tombs have been broken into, Khufu has the slave and architect Vashtar (James Robertson Justice) design and build an impregnable -- and clever -- burying place for him. In the meantime foreign Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins), herself turned into a slave, manages to make herself one of Khufu's wives, and is determined to become Queen of All Egypt no matter whom she has to kill; obviously power has gone to her head. But will she achieve her goal, or succumb to a much more ironic fate ... ? Land of the Pharaohs is a very entertaining movie, with a splendid lead performance from the authoritative and commanding Jack Hawkins [Ben-Hur]. Joan Collins is also very effective, especially in her early confrontations with Hawkins -- as are Sydney Chaplin as Nellifer's lover, Treneh, the captain of the guard, and Alexis Minotis as Hamar, the Pharaoh's good right hand. There's some odd casting in this, however, with Justice (who usually plays blustery characters in such films as Doctor in Love) adequate as Vashtar and Dewey Martin [The Thing from Another World] handsome and acceptable as Vashtar's grown son, Senta. (Hawks used Martin in other movies as well.) At times the brassy musical score [Dimitri Tiomkin] reminds one of a Broadway musical, and Hawks' direction is not as assured or inspired as it might have been, although the settings are always colorful and the movie has an elaborate production. There's a scene when some who have displeased Pharaoh are thrown to the gators. Believe it or not, William Faulkner was one of the screenwriters! Great ending! Oddly, the movie was a commercial failure.

Verdict: Perhaps not as fictional as one might imagine, although this is still Hollywood. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, was not aware that this movie was not a success. I really like it; it's a superior entry in the sword-and-sandals genre of the 1950s. I am a HUGE fan of Joan Collins, in every era of her long career. This is one of her best early films. And before Liz Taylor nabbed the role of Cleopatra in the 1963 version, Collins was always listed in the columns as the frontrunner for the role.

BTW, another good one in this vein, Solomon & Sheba, is going to be on TCM in the next few days...Yul and Lollobrigida, have not seen that one in decades!

Be well!

William said...

The picture nearly finished Howard Hawks until he bounced back with one or two of those "Rio" movies, forget the names just now.

Joan Collins was a saucy actress, and gave quite a few good performances. The funniest thing I remember about her off-screen is when she was on a talk show, and said it was only sexism that made people think her character of Alexis Carrington was a bitch. Unfortunately, just a week or two before, on "Dynasty," Alexis was shown surreptitiously firing a rifle so that her rival Crystal's horse would buck and she'd fall off and have a miscarriage -- If that's not a bitch I don't know what is!