Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
The other evening Ol’ Robbo ran off the 1955 Howard Hawks moovie, “Land of the Pharaohs“. I had watched it once before about four or five years ago (indeed, I might have posted about it but am too lazy to check) and wanted to come back for a second look.
It’s an odd duck of a film. Hawks, of course, was a legendary director – working with such heavyweights as The Dook, Cary Grant, Bogart, Bacall, and Kate Hepburn, among others. But so far as I can see, he mostly did westerns, war pictures, thrillers, and screwball comedies: A cast-of-thousands ancient epic like this one seems to be a definite outlier for him. Also, I couldn’t help noticing that one of the writers for the film was William Faulkner. (Yes, that William Faulkner.)
In the picture, Pharaoh Khufu, fabulously wealthy and successful, becomes obsessed with constructing a pyramid tomb for himself that will be completely bandit-proof, allowing him to enjoy his riches in the “next life” undisturbed. To this end, he engages the services of a master-architect, a prisoner from one of his recent conquests. Meanwhile, Khufu meets and marries (as his second wife) a feisty princess (Nellifer by name) from a tributary kingdom. She gets greedy (well, she is anyway) and hatches a plot to kybosh him and set herself up as Queen in his place. I’ll let it go at that without any spoilers just in case any of you actually wants to watch the film yourselves.
For all that, it’s really not too bad a film, if you’re just looking for simple entertainment. I believe it was actually shot in Egypt, and some of the landscapes are quite striking. Also, the big crowd/army scenes work very well. The dialogue is nothing special, but the climax is pretty satisfying.
Khufu is played by Jack Hawkins, one of those solid Brit actors who seems to turn up in just about everything in the 50’s and 60’s. The last time I saw him, he was playing the demolition-wallah who slogged through the Burma jungle with William Holden on the way to blow up Alec Guinness’s “Bridge Over The River Kwai”.
The master architect is played by James Robertson Justice, who I know from no other film whatever. The man was a dead-ringer for Peter Ustinov, if Ustie had ever spent any time in the gym.
Then there’s Princess Nellifer. She’s played by a young Joan Collins. She is, quite bluntly, a nasty bitch. But she’s a nasty bitch in a skimpy desert-princess costume. And in one scene, she’s a nasty bitch in a skimpy desert-princess costume getting flogged. So there’s that. If you’re into that sort of thing. Just saying.
Anyhoo, high-quality escapist entertainment of a sort rarely seen in the present day and age.