Title: Samson and Delilah
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Jesse Lasky Jr.
Fredric M. Frank
Music: Victor Young
Cinematography: George Barnes
Editor: Anne Bauchens
William ‘Wee Willie’ Davis
Cecil B. DeMille’s lush biblical epic retailing the story of Samson and Delilah, is the top-grossing movie released in 1949, and save its proselytizing designation, it is a quintessential study of a woman’s complex affective oscillation between love and hate, but of course, the prerequisite is that she should look as gorgeous as our star Hedy Lamarr.
Lamarr’s Delilah, a Philistine girl carries a torch for the Israelite hero Samson (Mature) after witnessing him kill a lion with his bare hands (a stunt battling with a tamed lion is in evidence), only Samson’s heart hankers for Delilah’s sister Semadar (a gleaming Lansbury in golden armor), after obtaining the permission of marriage from the Saran of Gaza (Sanders, an exceptional cool cucumber takes the villain coat with a scintillating air of insouciance), the resultant matrimonial ceremony is a total disaster, a cocktail of betrayal, pretension, lies and wiles, conveniently leaves Semadar and the sisters’ father to be pushing up daisies, with Samson as dispirited as Delilah vengeful, although one might expect she should be consumed by mounting guilt since it is she who starts the whole shebang which accidentally becomes the undoing of her father and sister, but hell no, wantonly imputing her loss to Samson and driven by the bitterness of being rejected roundly by Samson at the first place, something a woman like her could never live down, she must bring Samson down as the prey to her appeal.
Samson, an archetype of Superman in design (with his almighty brawn derived from his own Kryptonite), who stubbornly patronize Miriam (Deering), a devout, enamored girl of his own stock (yes, you are too good for me!), and incredulously falls for the honey trap, but the abrupt transition from stiffing to be smitten with Delilah is for short of a convincing arc, nonetheless, he eventually lets on his Kryptonite and is blinded and enslaved by the Philistines (who are ever so forgetful that they never notice body hair can naturally grow back), while Delilah, dogged by a belatedly guilt, will effect her penance in the climactic destruction of the Temple of Dagon, a magnificent achievement of its FX.
Enveloped by Victor Young’s orotund incidental music, SAMSON AND DELILAH is vibrantly breathtaking to watch (although the action sequences are crummy) but is hindered by a brawny Victor Mature’s stilted heroic blandness, which is grandly assuaged by a dressed-to-kill Lamarr, whose star rises to the apex at the age of 35, as we are all well conversant with what will happen to any Golden Age leading ladies when their ages itching 40, here, she supplements the schematic script with a commanding swagger that is alluring and treacherous in the same breath, when her big redemptive acts commence, one ineluctably feels a bit let down because it looks too facile by half, that only happens in a by-the-number Tinseltown Technicolor spectacle to woo the lowest common denominator.
referential entries: DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956, 6.4/10); William Wyler’s BEN-HUR (1959, 8.0/10).