Samson and Delilah (1949)

“The oldest trick in the world: silk trap, baited with a woman.”

Synopsis:
During his marriage to a golden-haired Philistine named Semadar (Angela Lansbury), a supernaturally strong Hebrew named Samson (Victor Mature) begins a fight with guests over a gambling debts, which leads to Lansbury’s death. Samson — an active fighter against the Philistines, and hero of his people — is soon hunted down not only by a wily ruler (George Sanders) but Semadar’s cunning sister Delilah (Hedy Lamarr), who covets him and will stop at nothing to seek vengeance for his initial rejection of her.

Genres:

Review:
This Technicolor extravaganza by Cecil B. DeMille was not only the highest-grossing film of 1950, but was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two (Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design). Unfortunately, the look of this film is its best feature by far: the storyline (based on a fairly short passage from the book of Judges) is overly long (Lansbury’s character was added to provide motivation for Delilah’s betrayal), slow-moving, and not all that involving. (As Dave Sindelair puts it, “the actors are saddled with a script that is as fast-moving as a sleepy turtle and as agile as a three-legged elephant”.) Speaking of the actors, they’re in solid melodramatic territory here, mouthing hoary lines while looking gorgeous (especially Lamarr, and especially in the newly released Blu-Ray edition). Those in the mood for a lavish, colorful, visual feast with plenty of extras and elaborate sets may enjoy this one, but it’s not on a par with more engaging mid-century Biblical epics.

Note: The most exciting sequence in this film occurs during the last few minutes, and it is indeed worth viewing. (Check Wikipedia for details about its filming; it took a year to shoot and cost $150,000.)

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Vibrant Technicolor cinematography, sets, and costumes


  • The exciting final sequence

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious.

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One Response to “Samson and Delilah (1949)”

  1. Agreed; skip it. As per my post in ‘Film Junkie’ (fb):

    ‘Samson and Delilah’ (blu-ray): As proof of how immensely forgettable this film is, I just had a fleeting memory that I rewatched this *just last night*. ‘S&D’ was pushing me toward counting sheep but I did (alas) manage to make it through. A biblical epic will work as either believably reverent or high camp. But…saddled with what seems a 1st draft of a script, ‘S&D’ reveals that no one involved is engaged on any level. …until the last (satisfying) 2 minutes. The blu-ray transfer, however, is technicolor at its sharpest (like the equally snooze-worthy ‘The Egyptian’).

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