HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Samson and Delilah
HTS Overall Score:70
Nothing delights me more than going back in time to the days when the silver screen was adorned with historical and Biblical epics left and right. During the 40s through the 60s there was an insatiable craving for these Biblical epics. We remember the greats, such as “The Robe”, “Ben-Hur” (which hovers on the edge of Biblical), “The Ten Commandments”, “The King of Kings”, etc etc etc. Even in this day and age, modern viewers still enjoy the telling and retellings of those stories, as “Passion of the Christ”, “One Night with the King” and others have tried to replicate the success of those bygone days. “Samson and Delilah” was not as wildly successful as some of the others of its day, but it still garnered a large cult following and has stuck with me as one of those fun movies of my childhood that I revisit every once in a while. The pull for the film is the fact that it deals with one of the most famous judges of the Jewish people, a man who would be considered a Biblical times superhero, albeit a very flawed one. A man with incredible strength, and power, given to him as a tool to watch over and protect the Jewish people in their time of Philistine captivity. As with many of the judges of that time, He carried a fatal flaw, one of the most common flaws known to man actually, and this drove him to the epic ruin that is remembered to this day.
We all know the story of Samson. The Nazarite, consecrated before God, to protect and watch over the Hebrews during the occupation of the Philistine nation. Given incredible power, he was able to overturn chariots, destroy entire columns of the Philistine army and seemingly invincible. His only stipulations that he has for this God given power is to follow the vows of the Nazarites, abstaining from wine, keeping himself clean of graves and not allowing a razor to ever touch his head. As with all the judges, there was a fatal flaw in his character. Not allowing himself to stay pure and follow the laws of his God, he fell prey to something that most men struggle with, the attraction to the grass on the other side of the fence. Indulging himself in the pleasures of the flesh he danced a fine line between being his people’s protector, and a drunken man who falls prey to a temptress. Samson (the incredibly good looking Victor Mature) can’t keep his eyes of the philistine beauty Semadar (Angela Lansbury). Against the wishes of his parents and the elders of the tribe, he takes the lovely Philistine as his bride. This ruffles the feathers of quite a few Philistines, including the Prince of Gaza (George Sanders). Allowing Samson to marry the girl, he baits a trap at the wedding, planning to have Samson killed and squash the backbone of the tribe of Dan. The only problem is that Samson turns the tables on them and has them involved in a wager of honor that keeps the men frustrated. Only through the trickery of Semadar’s sister, Delilah (Hedy Lamarr) can Samson’s riddle be broken, causing the Dannite to fall into a rage. Leaving to fulfill his debt, Samson returns only to find that his bridge has been given away and he is left holding the back. Filled with rage Samson tries to take back what is his, only to watch his beautiful bridge die at the hands of the philistines. Doing what he does best, Samson tears the guests limb from limb and escapes into the desert.
Now Delilah, having been scorned by Samson, dedicates her passion to hate instead of love, vowing to bring down the giant that has robbed her of her sister, as well as her pride. Winding every which way she can, Delilah tracks down Samson and has the army take him into custody. Only Samson’s strength is once again underestimate as he rips through hundreds of philistines with only the famed jawbone of an donkey. Realizing that brute force can’t bring down the beast, Delilah changes her tactics and begs permission from the Saran of Gaza to use her feminine wiles to bring down Samson. Now Samson already hates her, but the charms of a beautiful woman is something that has plagued him his entire life. Falling prey to her wiles he languishes in her arms, toying with her, allowing himself to have fun, but never trusting her enough to let her know the secret of his strength. As with all things that wear upon a man, a breaking point has to be met and Samson met his. Enraptured with her beauty he gives up the secret of his strength. For all the things that he has thrown back in God’s face, for all the immoralities that he engaged in, he still honored God by sticking to the Nazarite vow of never putting a blade to his hair. As you can guess he’s me his downfall, his last promise has broken and God turns his back on Samson for this final betrayal. Samson is now bound and chained, blinded in the eyes and set to turning the millstone for the Philistine’s grain.
Here is where the story deviates from the original tale a bit much. There has been some slight deviations with Miriam, Saul and some historical issues, but the basic premise of the story is intact. Hollywood loves a good romance and couldn’t seem to stand for Delilah to be truly a villain, so here they had Delilah see the error of her ways and have pity on her former lover. Begging for forgiveness she humbles herself before Samson and accepts whatever wrath he may have for her. In his rage Samson snaps his chains and realizes that his strength has returned. For some reason, the Philistines had thought their enemy tamed and let his hair grow long once again. Realizing the opportunity he has, Samson refuses to leave with Delilah and instead lets himself be taken into the temple of Dagon, to be used as sport and whipped in front of their God. There he makes his one last stand. Bereft of his eyes, his honor, stripped down by his betrayal of his God, he stands humbled and asks the Lord for one more chance to do what he was instructed to. To fight the Philistines. With all his God given might he tears down the pillars that hold up the temple and in one moment takes out more Philistines than he had in his entire life.
I have always enjoyed the story of Samson, and while I cannot label him a hero, he is still my favorite story of the book of Judges. He’s one of those stories of what could have been. What started out as a man with an honest passion for his God, given great power to wield, we see stumble and fall with a weakness that makes all of his power useless. Samson was a warrior, a man who could do more than any other man at that time in sheer physicality, and all of that power was destroyed by his own inability to control himself. The story itself is worthy of an epic film and this presentation tries its very best. The only real detriment to the film that could have been avoided was Hollywood’s incessant desire to spice up a good romance. Instead of allowing Delilah to be the trickster that she was, they did their best to pull at the heart strings and root for the couple, taking some of the potency from the situation. George Sanders does a very solid job as the aristocratic Saran of Gaza, and Hedy Lemarr is exquisite as the double tongued vixen herself, but the real star was Victor Mature, as Samson he was able to use his pretty boy charm and rugged physique to good use and made a very likeable, yet flawed Samson. While not a perfect film, it is quite good and holds a dear place in my childhood growing up and still holds up quite well today.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=15095[/img]Wow! I’m truly impressed. We’ve all come to expect excellence from modern releases, with modern technology pushing out the best for audiences, but it’s always exciting to see such releases of yesteryear shown the TLC they deserve. “Samson and Delilah” is presented with an exemplary encode of its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and all the glory that it had in the days of its youth. The picture has a very nice layer of grain over it giving it an incredibly authentic, and detailed, picture. All the lavish costumes and set pieces are seen in exemplary quality in a way that puts the DVD to shame in ways I didn’t think was possible. The old DVD was a solid DVD for its time, but the difference between the Blu-ray and the old 480p source is a night and day difference with fantastically rich colors and saturation. The reds are a burnished red that shimmers in the sunlight and the gold brocade glitters like none other. Black levels are deep, with only minor crush and I really can’t see any digital artifacting. The source isn’t as PERFECT as the 70mm films like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, but don’t take that as a negative, “Samson and Delilah” looks exquisite and definitely a crown jewel in my historical film collection.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=15096[/img]Unfortunately, the audio has not fared as well. It’s really not any horrible fault of the restoration, or the encode, but rather a limitation of the source. The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and shows all the limitations of a track that can’t break free from only 2 channels. The LFE is anemic and barely registered on my sub amp. There’s mild extension into the low 70-80hz range, but most of it is fairly soft and mid ranged. The dialogue is clean and clear, locked to the front two speakers with excellent clarity, but as I said, that’s about where it stays, even with the musical score. The ambient noises are serviceable, but suffer from being slightly muddy and muffled. Overall it’s a very serviceable, but it lacks the ambience and immersiveness of modern tracks.
• Theatrical Trailer
“Samson and Delilah” is not one of the true greats, such as “Ben-Hur”, “The Robe”, or even modern classics like “The Passion of the Christ”, and suffers from a bit too much saccharine sweet Hollywood meddling, but it is still a wildly entertaining film from a decade long since gone. The exemplary video alone is worth the upgrade, in my opinion. Giving us a second look at something I had thought was beyond reach video wise. The anemic special features and source limited audio ARE a downside, but I highly doubt we’ll see this film grace a higher quality presentation for QUITE some time, if at all.
Starring: Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders
Directed by: Cecile B. Demille
Written by: Jesse Lasky Jr., Fredric M. Frank
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 2.0, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 2.0
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 134 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 11th, 2014
Buy Samson and Delilah Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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