In this season of Easter it not unusual to see Bible derived films being released. This year there is a biggie in that it is a Cecil B. DeMille epic that is making its appearance for the first time on DVD. Samson and Delilah has been beautifully restored and is ready for its close up.
In this time the Philistines ruled over the Israelites. One people were rich city dwellers while the others were impoverished farmers. The Israelites do have one thing that the Philistines don’t and that is Samson (Victor Mature – The Robe, My Clementine), the strongest man in the world.
The fact that the two people don’t mix and certainly do not intermarry has not deterred Samson from falling in love with a Philistine young woman named Semadar (Angela Lansbury – Beauty and the Beast, Bedknobs and Broomsticks). On a trip over to see Semadar and woo her, Samson meets her sister Delilah (Hedy Lemarr – Algiers). Upon first glance of Samson Delilah falls head over heels in love with him and she is not the type of young woman to be discouraged by the fact that he is in love with her sister.
Samson wins Semadar’s hand due to a display of his incredible strength. Before they are married Semadar due to the plotting of her sister betrays Samson. A fight ensues between Samson and the wedding attendees including Ahtur (Henry Wilcoxon – Caddyshack, The Ten Commandments). Many are killed including Semadar. Despite the fact that she is dead Samson still spurns Delilah’s advances. A woman scorned is a dangerous creature and Samson is going to learn that the hard way when Delilah vows revenge on the strong man.
Released in 1949 Cecile B. DeMille’s film was a success at the box office and won two Oscars – Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design. Like most of DeMille’s films it was a big film in every sense of the word. The Old Testament story comes alive in the hands of this very talented director.
DeMille is not a director that you could ever accuse of being subtle. Everything from the sets to the amount of extras in this film to the budget is huge. The scene at the end in which Samson destroys the temple is done on a large scale. In some instances this largesse helps the film and renders it eye catching. Though in other ways it is way too much.
The over-the-top nature of the picture shows up most often in the acting and the dialogue. Some of the lines are so overdone that you cannot help but chuckle upon hearing them. At other times the dialogue is very unrealistic and stilted.
Some may find Samson and Delilah corny and outdated, but there is still some value to it. For fans of film it is a must watch to see the work of one of the most famous and respected directors of his era, Cecile B. DeMille. When you watch a DeMille production you know you are not going to get a small, intimate picture. Few matched his grandiose productions and epic storytelling style.