King of Kings (1961)

King of Kings
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Philip Yordan
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Samuel Bronston Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant


Narrator: And when the tomb was found empty, some days passed, and Christ was seen at Emmaus, and in Jerusalem, and those who saw Him knew He was the Lord God. And then a final time He came among His disciples by the shore of Galilee…

Apparently my bias against long Biblical epics extends to those directed by Nicholas Ray.

The story of Jesus of Nazareth is well-known and does not need repeating.  This film plays up the portions dealing with the oppression of the Jews by the Romans and the rebellion headed by Barrabas, leading to more than usual amounts of violence by the standards of these things.

Jeffrey Hunter makes a bland Jesus and Robert Ryan is a strange choice for the role of John the Baptist.  My Biblical studies are decades in the past but I couldn’t recall some of the incidents portrayed being included in the Good Book.  Ray is a master of color and the widescreen but the movie lacks the passion that could have made the movie work.

Interesting how my randomized list just happened to stop on this one for Easter Sunday!



4 thoughts on “King of Kings (1961)

  1. I can never decide if the best Jesus movie is The Last Temptation of Christ or The Life of Brian.

    It’s been a very long time since I saw King of Kings but I remember it being mildly entertaining much of the time. Is this the one where David McCallum is Judas? David McCallum is the best Judas.

    I didn’t go the Bible route for my Easter movie this year. I went the rabbit route. TCM showed Night of the Lepus and I’ve been wanting to see the whole movie for more than 40 years. Why didn’t anybody ever tell me that Night of the Lepus is one of the great 1970s low-budget animals-amok movies? The only thing missing was Ray Milland!

    • We have Rip Torn as Judas in this one! David McCallum is in The Greatest Story Ever Told. I wish I had gone for Night of the Lepus. It sounds awesome.

  2. Bea, this film was nicknamed, “I Was A Teenaged Jesus.” I have no wish to be irreverent, but there it is. I do agree with your assertions. This is NOT my favorite genre, but it IS the first time since the 1930s that we actually see Christ depicted on film. I’m pretty sure there was a prohibition of showing his actual visage on film as part of the Hayes Code (perhaps?) – remember we see Jesus at a distance, entering Jerusalem in “The Robe” and we see His hands only in “Ben-Hur.” As far as these biblical films are concerned, I still think “The Robe” warts and all is the best!

    • Such a letdown that when we finally get to see Jesus, he turns out to be Jeffrey Hunter. Agree that The Robe has the edge over this one.

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