The undortunate side effect of the faithfulness is that Richard III has a real Masterpiece Theatre quality that you just can't shake. Olivier plops the camera down at one end of the room and lets scenes take place in wide shots, unmolested. Long scenes are certainly forgivable, but the end result is that this rendition of the story looks far more like a play than a movie. It isn't until the second half of the film when we really get out of the castle, and thank God we do. But unfortunately, even these scenes aren't exactly thrill rides. The landscapes chosen are barren and void of majesty. Sword fights are genteel affairs with no distinguishable choreography. Why ride an army out to battle if you're not going to use them?
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Surprise! As DeMille himself tells us in a (somewhat silly) opening narration -- where he comes out from behind a curtain and addresses the audience -- the Bible skips Moses' formative years altogether. One minute, as a baby he's fished out of the Nile by Pharoah's daughter, the next he's banished to the desert for killing an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew man. There's certainly no talk of Moses' rise to power under Pharoah -- which comprises the first two hours of this nearly four-hour film. In DeMille's rendition (based, he says, on the works of ancient scholars), Moses (Charleton Heston, in the role that would define his career) toils under Pharoah (Cedric Hardwicke) as his adopted grandson, working hard building a treasure city for his glory. His rival is Pharoah's son Rameses (Yul Brynner), who isn't only also up for the future job of Pharoah, he's also competing for the hand of Nefretiri (All About Eve's title character Anne Baxter).
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Rope is a complex and dazzlingly unique picture. Subversively based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case, it presents us with two boys (Dall and Granger) who have been taught by their old headmaster (Stewart) in the Nietzchian philosophies of the Superman and the unimportance of the lives of simpler people. Dall masterminds a plot and Granger follows as his half-willing pull-toy; together they strangle a mutual friend, dump his body in a chest, and throw a party for his father -- serving a buffet from his makeshift casket.
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