Solomon and Sheba (1959)

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Released 9-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 135:29
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By King Vidor
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Yul Brynner
Gina Lollobrigida
George Sanders
Marisa Pavan
David Farrar
John Crawford
Finlay Currie
Harry Andrews
Josť Nieto
Maruchi Fresno
William Devlin
Jack Gwillim
Jean Anderson
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Mario Nascimbene


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Greek
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

††† "Behold - The Mightiest Spectacle the screen ever encompassed". Well, at least that is what it says in the trailer for Solomon and Sheba, and I'm sure they wouldn't exaggerate... Funnily enough, I had just reviewed The Passion of the Christ when I came to this film, and these two biblically inspired films are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese. Solomon and Sheba was directed by King Vidor for MGM, who seem to have been attempting to recreate their earlier success with The Ten Commandments, even including Yul Brynner who had starred in that earlier film. Vidor, who directed the overblown War and Peace in 1956 has unfortunately managed to bring the same lifeless quality to this film.

††† The story follows the original Bible version in its basic outline, adding the usual Hollywood embellishments required of a biblical epic. Early on we meet the Israelite princes Adonijah (George Sanders, looking hopelessly out of place) and Solomon (Yul Brynner with hair!!). With a cast of dozens they are thwarting the smallest Egyptian invasion force I have ever seen in the cinema (which is rather strange as the armies in the closing scenes are enormous - perhaps they could only afford the extras for one battle). Adonijah, the eldest son, expects to be the next king of Israel, but God throws a spanner in the works by suggesting to their father David that Solomon should be the next king (yes, the David from the Goliath story).

††† After they defeat the Egyptians, Adonijah has an encounter with the Queen of far-off Sheba (Gina Lollobrigida, looking very alluring here) and soon takes a dislike to her. Some years down the track Solomon is now King of Israel, his brother is plotting his overthrow, and the Queen and her Egyptian allies agree on a plan whereby she will insinuate herself into Solomon's court to find a weakness they can exploit to bring about his downfall.

††† Well, the two fall in love (Solomon's legendary wisdom taking a back seat to his lust - after all he had a harem numbering in the hundreds). The Israelite court are not too impressed with Solomon consorting with this heathen hussy (or, "you and your Sheban slut" as Adonijah tastefully puts it). There are bolts of lightning from above as God shows his displeasure and a nice moment with the sun shining on some shields in a battle with the Egyptians, but this is all rather melodramatic (but they do have a nice orgy scene which makes the one in the 2nd Matrix film look rather tame).

††† I saw this film many (many) years ago at my local cinema in Wales, but had not seen it since. It is still the hokey bit of fluff I remember from way back then. The acting is generally wooden, though Lollobrigida lights up the screen and makes it easy to believe the effect she has on Solomon in the film. I always found it rather amusing that Solomon is condemned for surrendering to his lust when he has countless wives and concubines. The film is also rather inconsistent in its production values, with great model and matte work one moment and false looking shots at others; in one scene you can even see a supposedly dead character moving their eyes. The final fatal problem with the film is revealed in the fact that one member of my home audience commented on how long the film was when we had only been watching it for just over an hour - it seemed to us that we had been sitting there for three.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† The video transfer on offer here is strictly average. The film stock used for the DVD transfer must have been looking very dated, though it is inconsistent, looking better for the odd reel.

††† The aspect ratio of the transfer is 2.30:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. Theatrically the film was shown at either 2.35:1 for the 35mm prints or at 2.20:1 for its 70mm prints. This DVD is probably sourced from a 35mm print and so is acceptably close to its original release ratio.

††† The transfer is generally sharp but displays poor shadow detail at times, though it improves in the 2nd reel and deteriorates again after that. There is little low level noise and the sun reflecting off the shields at 121:00 is very effective.

††† Colours are variable, appearing muted at times and with nice flesh tones at others (as at 72:52). Some of the costumes look very colourful though outdoors scenes frequently appear harsh and washed out.

††† There is some aliasing evident in the picture (as on the temple at 29:35) and the occasional fleck of damage (both positive and negative artefacts). The picture also hovers on the edge of looking grainy but is in reasonable physical shape otherwise.

††† The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are quite good, with lots of labels like "voice of god" and "horses approaching". The odd word is omitted but not enough to alter the meaning of the spoken word. There are a lot of other subtitle tracks for you to choose from.

††† I did not notice the layer change which may have been between scenes.

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

Audio

††† The audio transfer sounds rather thin and harsh on occasion, and is strictly average.

††† There are five audio tracks on the DVD, all of them Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks encoded at 192 Kb/s. Switching to ProLogic mode makes the sound even worse, so I would not recommend it. I listened to the English track as well as segments of the Italian. You can also choose German, French or Spanish. The Italian dub sounds reasonable, though the Adonijah character does not seem as oily as he should and Solomon's voice is rather weak. On the positive side it seems as if 'La Lollo' may have done the voice acting for her native language.

††† The dialogue is clear enough in this transfer, though it is at a lower level than the sound effects, so you can listen to one or the other in comfort, but not both. Audio sync is fair, though at times it seems as if some lines were edited in later and don't quit fit in their timing.

††† Like much else in the film the music is of variable quality, from overly melodramatic to quite moving. It is recorded at an acceptable volume level, somewhere in between the dialogue and the sound effects.

††† There is no surround activity of any note with dialogue placement a little indeterminate, though the music is spread nicely across the front of the sound field. There is no subwoofer activity except for some bass directed there by my amplifier during the lightning around 89:00.

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

Extras

††† The only extra on the disc is a lonely Theatrical Trailer.

Menu

††† The menu is static with no audio. From it you can Play the film, go to Scene Selections (16 of those), go to Language Options or play the Original Theatrical Trailer.

Original Theatrical Trailer

††† This is presented at an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1, non 16x9 enhanced and runs for 1:56. It shows a lot of damage and is rather dark. It gives away the entire plot and is as cheesy as the main feature, but worth a giggle for the sort of hyperbole exemplified in the quote at the start of this review.

R4 vs R1

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

††† The Region 2 version of this disc is identical to the Region 4. As I write I have been unable to find a Region 1 version, though one may well be released to coincide with our own. For availability the Region 4 is probably the way to go.

Summary

††† Everything about this film and this DVD is average. The main feature is a rather ordinary example of the Hollywood epic, the video and audio transfers are average at best, and there is only a trailer as an extra. This one is strictly for those who want to see Lollobrigida make more costume changes than the star at a Cher concert, or for those of you curious to see Brynner with hair.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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