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One major film star referred to director Nicholas Ray as a "loser," because of Ray's alleged willingness to let his more temperamental actors walk all over him. Evidently, Ray had a very compliant and cooperative cast in King of Kings, inasmuch as the film emerged as one of the most disciplined Biblical epics ever made. Jeffrey Hunter is cast as Jesus Christ, delivering a wholly credible performance in this most taxing of roles never mind the wags who referred to the film as "I Was a Teenage Jesus". Siobhan McKenna is a radiant if somewhat overaged Mary; Hurd Hatfield offers a properly preening Pontius Pilate; Rip Torn portrays Judas more for the tragedy than the treachery; Robert Ryan a personal favorite of Ray's is one of the best John the Baptists you're ever likely to see; and Harry Guardino convincingly interprets Barabbas as a firebrand political extremist. The only false note in the casting is the MGM-dictated selection of teenaged Brigid Bazlen as Salome. The best aspect of the film is its handling of the days after the Resurrection; the "Jesus sightings" are offered as secondhand information, so as to retain some of the mystery inherent in the Scriptures. King of Kings was previously filmed in 1927 by Cecil B. DeMille, with a middle-aged H.B. Warner as Jesus. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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