Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Ol’ Robbo popped in the DVD of “Barabbas” (1961).  This wasn’t part of my Hollywood History of the World campaign.  Rayther, I had caught about ten minutes of it on one of the movie channels last Easter and was intrigued enough to make a note to circle back to it.

The premise is an interesting one:  What happened to Barabbas after Pilate let him go instead of Jesus?

Alas, the actual execution is pretty flat.  *SPOILER ALERT** Barabbas has some kind of crisis of conscience at being spared.  In the meantime, he gets arrested again, transported to a sulphur mine in Sicily, survives that, and winds up in Rome performing in the Colosseum.  (Joey, do you like movies about…gladiators?”) Eventually, haunted by mental images of Jesus, he winds up becoming Christian himself.

In practice, most of the movie is nothing much more than Anthony Quinn standing around looking baffled and resentful.

There are a couple of nice little gracenotes featuring the underground nature of Early Christianity – a wink here, a secret symbol there – and the stoning to death of Barabbas’ Jesus-loving gal-pal is pretty grim.  And I will say that whoever wrote the score was well-acquainted with Gregorian Chant and put it to very effective and appropriate use.

As I say, Quinn is Barabbas.  Anthony Kennedy, one of the oiliest-looking actors of the time (I know him as the gun-slinger who double-crosses Jimmuh Stewart in the western “Bend of the River”), plays Pilate.  Ernest Borgnine has a bit part (and he was actually not bad looking in those days), and Jack Palance plays a psychotic bully-boy among the gladiators.  (There’s a surprise casting job!)

I’ll give it, say, four sips out of ten.

Next up, a 1954 version of “Ulysses”, starring Kirk Douglas as the Homeric hero.  I intend to laugh heartily……

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