King of Kings (1961) (NTSC)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 1-Apr-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Featurette-The Camera's Window of the World
Featurette-King of Kings-Impressive Premiere on Two Coasts
Featurette-King of Kings: Egyptian Theater Premiere, Hollywood, CA
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 170:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (81:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By Nicholas Ray
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring effrey Hunter
Siobhan McKenna
Hurd Hatfield
Ron Randell
Frank Thring
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Miklos Rozsa


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

MGM's quintessential Easter movie, King of Kings, has been released on DVD.

Based on the New Testament, King of Kings is a Biblical epic, that tells the story of Jesus, "The King of Kings". A number of liberties are taken, and some characters, such as the Virgin Mary (Siobhan McKenna) are given a much bigger role, than I recall them having in the New Testament. The problem, however, is not the adaptation, it's that in being so extremely reverent, and ensuring that the film is thoroughly inoffensive, it makes no artistic choices. There is no interpretation of the material it is merely delivered. As a result, the film meanders through the The Gospels, with humourless and wooden actors speaking famous lines as if they were reading a shopping list.

I imagine that Jesus must have been a stirring speaker to build a following. I imagine that he must have delivered a compelling message that moved people. However, Jeffrey Hunter delivers a weak performance as Jesus. (I am also curious as to why Jesus, who was an Arabic Jew, always gets portrayed with blue eyes and sandy brown hair). Actors in these sword 'n' Bible epics tend to be overly serious and far too earnest, and we get hammy performances from Hurd Hatfield as Pontius Pilate, Rip Torn as Judas, and a miscast Harry Guardino as Barabbas. The casting saviours are Ron Randell as Lucius and Robert Ryan as John the Baptist. These actors breathed life into their parts, and I found the movie stirred awake when they were on screen. The two stand-out performances were by Australianactor, Frank Thring (El Cid, Ben Hur, Mad Max III), who delivers a deliciously cowardly, yet brutal, Herod Antipas, and the young Brigid Bazlen, who slithers into her role as Herod's step-daughter and seductress, Salome.

Produced for MGM by Samuel Bronston (El Cid, 55 Days in Peking, The Fall of the Roman Empire), the scale of King of Kings is impressive, with thousands of extras, lavish sets, and an almost three hour running time. However, sadly, the overly restrained and/or hammy acting, and non-direction, results in something that looks like the world's most expensive school play.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

Note: this disc is presented in NTSC if your system will not display NTSC, you should skip this disc.

A forty-plus year old 70mm Technirama film, the NTSC transfer is surprisingly good. I understand that this film had some restoration work done to it, and the source material looks great, considering its age.

The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

The sharpness is variable, but good overall. As was the style of the times, many of the close ups have an extremely soft focus. The black level and shadow detail were also fairly good.

The colour is very rich, and sometimes appears a tad over-saturated. I am mindful, however, that many Technicolor films of this vintage can have this appearance. The skin tones are a little too orange/brown for my liking.

MPEG artefacts were not a great problem, but some backgrounds suffered from a little pixelization occasionally.

Film-to-video artefacts are present, in the form of slight aliasing; some objects, such as the pattern on Herod's throne (142:51), had a slight shimmer.

Film artefacts appear throughout, but they were mostly small and not distracting.

Three sets of subtitles are present on the DVD, and the English subtitles are accurate.

This is a RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 81:38. It is noticeable, but not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Originally released theatrically with 6-track magnetic stereo for the 70mm version, and remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) for this DVD, the audio retains much of its original magnetic stereo feel.

Apart from the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, there is also a French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s) audio option.

The dialogue quality is fine, but the audio sync is problematic throughout. Indeed, it is a little like watching a well-dubbed movie.

The musical score is credited to Miklos Rozsa (Ben Hur, El Cid and the theme from Dragnet), and it is the standard Biblical Epic score dramatic and orchestral, featuring brass, percussion, and a full choir.

The surround presence and activity is mainly limited to the score, which uses the rear speakers effectively. As was the style of this age of film, there is also some directional dialogue..

The subwoofer is also used to support the score, but that was about all it did.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are a few extras. Unless stated otherwise, all extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Menu

A very simple menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Theatrical Trailer (1:42)

Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo surround-encoded audio.

Cast and Crew

Text, similar to the movie's credits.

Featurette - The Camera's Window On The World (3:57)

A black and white news reel, looking behind-the-scenes at the filming of the Sermon on the Mount scene, in Spain.

Featurette - King of Kings: Impressive Premiere on Two Coasts (1:50)

Another black ad white news reel, this time containing gushing star-gazing.

Featurette - King of Kings: Egyptian Theatre Premiere, Hollywood, CA (1:10)

Another black ad white news reel, with more hype.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

King of Kings was released on DVD in Region 1 in February 2003. Apart from the region coding, our NTSC DVDs are identical.

Summary

Director Nicholas Ray might have delivered a film that didn't offend anyone. However, he also delivered a fairly limp movie, that failed to inspire or move me. Considering the rich source for the script, this was a terrible waste.

Considering the age of the source material. the video quality is good overall.

The audio quality is also good overall.

There are a few extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, April 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Roger L
DVD Net - Jules F

Comments (Add) NONE