Director John Huston’s worthy but miscalculated 1966 Old Testament epic boasts a spectacular production and beautiful widescreen images, courtesy ace cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno. But, alas, it is dragged down by an uninspiring screenplay (even though playwright Christopher Fry was the main writer) and some poor performances, especially from the young and inexperienced Michael Parks and Ulla Bergryd as a pretty but wan Adam and Eve.
Despite an excellent cast that also includes Richard Harris (Cain), Franco Nero (Abel), Stephen Boyd (Nimrod, King of Babel), Peter O’Toole (The Three Heavenly Messenger Angels) and Gabriele Ferzetti (Lot), the director effortlessly steals all the acting honours as old Noah. Huston looks, sounds and acts more like everybody’s idea of Noah than Russell Crowe in the 2014 Noah movie.
The Noah’s Ark section, with the spectacular flood sequence and the assembling of the animals two by two, and the impressively told story of Abraham and Sarah (played by George C Scott and Ava Gardner) and their preparation for the sacrifice of their only son Isaac (Alberto Lucantoni), are the easily the film’s finest, most impressive sections. The Ark itself is very impressive, too, credible and all the better for being non-CGI of course.
There’s a dreadful lack of dynamism in the story-telling as the pacing is terribly plodding sometimes. After nearly three hours of screen time, Huston has only reached the 23rd chapter of Genesis. Huston also narrates the film in his inimitable tones.
One contemporary review said: ‘A bad film of a good book’. And, lo, it is bad, but it isn’t unbearable.
© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Film Review 1045 derekwinnert.com