T. it.: Sansone e Dalila. Scen.: Jesse Lasky Jr., Fredric M. Frank, Harold Lamb, Vladimir Jabotinsky. F.: George Barnes. Mo.: Anne Bauchens. Scgf.: Hans Dreier, Walter Tyler. Mu.: Victor Young. Su.: John Cope, Harry Lindgren. Int.: Hedy Lamarr (Delilah), Victor Mature (Samson), George Sanders (Saran di Gaza), Angela Lansbury (Semadar), Henry Wilcoxon (Ahtur), Olive Deering (Miriam), Fay Holden (Hazelelponit), Julia Faye (Haisham), Russ Tamblyn (Saul), William Farnum (Tubal), Lane Chandler (Teresh), Moroni Olsen (Targil), Francis McDonald (il narratore), William Davis (Garmiskar), John Miljan (Lesh Lakish). Prod.: Paramount Pictures. Pri. pro.: 21 dicembre 1949 DCP. D.: 131’.
Paramount was not automatically ready to swallow what was to become DeMille’s triumphant return to his lifeline, the Biblical epic. He had been preoccupied with westerns and adventure films for years, and achievements like The Ten Commandments (1923), King of Kings (1927) and Sign of the Cross (1932) seemed far way. He was as obstinate as ever: Samson and Delilah was to be the first mixture of the Old Testament and Technicolor, a supreme combination of sex and spectacle. “A king-size attraction”! It was all that and more; for instance, probably the Italian strong man films that became the rage within ten years were inspired as much by the DeMille treatment as by the memory of Italy’s own glorious past.
Samson and Delilah stands as an outrageous homage that reflects an understanding of why the Bible remained at the crossroads forever. Whatever the religious point of view, it’s all about spectacle, veiled obscenity, vulgar piety, sadism, bad taste, divine miracles, consumer gadgets and wild animals. Above all it is a masterpiece of second-degree eroticism, or as Simon Louvish writes: “Though claiming to find his inspiration in the great art of Michelangelo, Rubens and Gustave Doré, it clearly was a great sex and tough-guy story at its root, however the Spirit of the Lord might have shaped it”. The impeccable casting, always a DeMille trademark, is amazingly stupid and inspired at the same time. Hedy Lamarr is a sex toy, Victor Mature (who was to become a regular in Biblical settings), a quintessential 1940s star whose one-dimensionality gave birth to one of the most famous quips about the cinema, Groucho Marx’s joke about “the only male actor with bigger tits than the female star”. In the days of the ‘cowardly lion’, behind the facade of the most courageous strong man on earth there was a totally frightened actor who abhorred just about everything, from lions to sets falling down. It is perhaps this masked fear that gives the delicious irony of his performance its bite. DeMille’s opening sequences were a special treat: the Master’s metallic, authorial voice – for Americans that sound had the charisma of radio that peaked during the war years – introducing world history from the director’s right-wing, Cold War perspective. And of course he had God on his side. According to Bosley Crowther, Samson and Delilah “out-Babels anything he’s done”. It opened just before Christmas in 1949 and was a monumental success.
(Peter von Bagh)
Restoration with the support Cece DeMille Presley, the granddaughter of the Paramount’s most important creative force: Cecil B. DeMille. The three strip nitrate camera negatives were scanned at 4K on a northlight scanner. Colour correction and cleanup was done by Technicolor Los Angeles. The challenges in the restoration were making sure to address some of the defects caused by early optical special effects especially in the climactic temple scene. Miniatures, dynamite, and many extras among other things were used to cinematically create this memorable part of the Samson story.