Samson and Delilah Blu-ray Review
“Before the dawn of history, ever since the first man discovered his soul, he has struggled against the forces that sought to enslave him…Fear bred superstition, blinding his reason…Tyranny rose, grinding the human spirit beneath the conqueror’s heel…But deep in man’s heart still burned the unquenchable will for freedom…Whether priest or soldier, artist or patriot, lover or statesman, his deeds have changed the course of human events and his name survives in the ages.”
That man, of course, is Samson (Victor Mature, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE)—because who else would the opening narration of a movie called SAMSON AND DELILAH want to hype? After years of hitting the weight room to pick up babes, Danite Samson decides to settle down and wed a Philistine named Semadar (Angela Lansbury, GASLIGHT, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY), which turns out to be a big no-no.
After a riddle leads to a series of attacks and the deaths of his bride and father-in-law, Samson becomes a wanted man and falls in love with Semadar’s sister, Delilah (Hedy Lamarr, ECSTASY), whose plan of revenge includes cutting off his hair, which Samson believes to be the source of his strength (sort of like Uncle Jesse in FULL HOUSE).
SAMSON AND DELILAH, a story found in the Book of Judges, comes from a script written by Jesse L. Lasky, Jr. (who would co-write 1956’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) and Fredrick M. Frank (who would later win an Oscar for his work on Cecil B. DeMille’s THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH), itself based on a treatment by Harold Lamb (THE BUCCANEER) and author Vladimir Jabotinsky. It is one of DeMille’s biblical epics, which also include 1926’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and, uh, ‘56’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Sixty-five years later, it ranks at the bottom.
While the art direction/set decoration (by Hans Dreier, Walter Tyler, Sam Comer and Ray Moyer) and the costumes (by a team led by the legendary Edith Head) won Academy Awards, their victories seem to have more to do with the lack of competition. And while the cast is extensive (it also features George Sanders, Russ Tamblyn and Henry Wilcoxon), the names that were considered in the early stages are much more alluring. (Vivien Leigh, Lana Turner and Burt Lancaster were all potentials, and certainly wouldn’t have made the acting as wooden as the sets.)
Hurting the movie the most is the cinematography. While George Barnes’ work is strong for the time, it is greatly limited and the modern audience is left wondering what else is out of frame. The overall feel of the movie would have benefited greatly had it been made only a few years later, when CinemaScope was introduced.
DeMille is responsible for so many of the most famous epics in cinema history that his name has become synonymous with the genre. But there is difference between a movie actually being epic and the director wanting it to be epic. SAMSON AND DELILAH simply isn’t the great event the director expected it to be.
SAMSON AND DELILAH BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.37:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. SAMSON AND DELILAH is given a very clear transfer for its Blu-ray review—although some may consider it too clear, as the level of detail sometimes shows off how phony the sets look.
Audio: English Mono Dolby TrueHD; French Mono Dolby Digital; Spanish Mono Dolby Digital; Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The audio transfer is rather unremarkable, with a score that lacks dimension and sound effects that feel artificial.