Two decades before she would gain fame and some fortune as Alexis Carrington on Dynasty (1981), Dame Joan Collins starred as Esther in this melodramatic, routine Biblical story. The setting...
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A lone rider comes across a dying soldier, who gives him a paper authorizing the payment of $150,000 to the U.S. Army. The rider gathers some colleagues who disguise themselves as soldiers and who take the paper to a bank.
Two decades before she would gain fame and some fortune as Alexis Carrington on Dynasty (1981), Dame Joan Collins starred as Esther in this melodramatic, routine Biblical story. The setting is Persia in the fourth century B.C., as Esther comes to the attention of the recently widowed King Ahasuerus. The King has been trying to stifle and defeat the campaign of hatred fomented against the Jews by his evil minister Haman (Sergio Fantoni). Before the King can pair off with Esther and defeat the villainous Haman, there are several intervening adventures and an additional, attractive woman who competes for attention.
Raoul Walsh's antepenultimate (third to last) film as a director, and his penultimate (second to last) screen credit as a producer. He died twenty years after this movie's release, in 1980. See more »
The ruins of an ancient Roman building complex are used as Simon's hideout. The ruins were disguised with some Persian elements (a broken statue, some sculptures on the walls), but Roman columns are visible. Most of the exterior/interior sets, however, are historically accurate representations of ancient Persian architecture. See more »
The time is 2,500 years ago. The place is Persia. The man is Ahasuerus, king of the Medes and the Persians, ruler of 127 provinces, the most powerful man on Earth. The army is the conqueror of all the lands from India to Ethiopia. They are returning home now from fresh victories in Egypt.
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Like other Italian works of this era, underappreciated and cynically criticized for what it is not, this is a work of art, beautifully woven together in music, mood, and cinematography leaving the viewer in the end fulfilled in the desire to escape from the modern world into a place inaccessible, and, yes, surrealistic.
The music, written by the Italian master Francesco Lavagnino, one of the great movie music composers of the 20th century, commands the mood of each scene and spans the range of moods in the work, from the march of soldiers to the Queen in the flower garden to her love scene with the King to the mystic mood in the ruins where Simon hides. It is a fine piece of composition.
The words in the script are, in some scenes, not meant to be ordinary conversation, but rather noble thoughts, royal council, and human aspirations, and thus are written and delivered as such. When mental burdens weigh heavily on the King, he is told by his friend Mordecai that "... by lifting the burdens of others one can lift one's own burden ... " Such thoughts are actually quite profound, that in some cases depressed moods arise from self-centered thinking and self-victimization, and that by helping others in a selfless way one can relieve one's own burdens. In the garden, Mordecai councils Esther that " .. the King is attracted to her sense of justice and loyalty, the same qualities that bind her still to Simon, her previous love, and that may turn the King against her in jealousy..."
The cinematography in the scene of the death of Simon, where the camera rises above Simon and the queen to the Star of David, which then appears on the wall of the next scene, is very well done. In another scene, the King is asked whom he had chosen to be his queen, and as he replies "A girl named Esther", the camera pans past the concerned face of Haman to reveal the quite different satisfied expression of Mordecai.
There is much to appreciate in the music, words, and visual presentation of this work. Of course this is not meant to be a documentary, a faithful retelling of an ancient story. Criticism should be directed at how it fails in its own intent as a melancholic, romantic, and introspective fantasy, rather than based on the viewer's expectations. If my understanding of its intent is near the mark, then my conclusion is that this work, like the Raoul Walsh epic The Big Trail made 30 years earlier, succeeds very well.
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