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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Prodigal (1955)

A young Hebrew man (Edmund Purdom, THE EGYPTIAN) becomes obsessed with a pagan high priestess (Lana Turner) after seeing her in Damascus. He abandons his betrothed (Audrey Dalton) and leaves his father's (Walter Hampden) home taking his inheritance and squandering it in an attempt to possess the priestess. Very loosely (emphasis on very) based on the Biblical parable of the prodigal son, this is one of the duller and more absurd of the big budget Biblical spectacles of the 1950s. It looks like a million bucks but one could wish that they had spent as much time on the script as they expended on the impressive art direction and lavish costumes. It's not a film where the acting matters much but even so, Turner's posing and Purdom's stiff line readings are a poor substitute for performances. Still, to be fair, Brando and Streep couldn't have done any better with material like this. What's surprising is how compelling all this awfulness is to watch. It's too sluggish to be "camp" yet it's hard to pull your eyes away. As with most heavy handed epics of the era, many of these films contain superb underscores far superior to the films they're composed for and it's no different here. Bronislau Kaper's score is glorious. Directed by Richard Thorpe. With Louis Calhern, Joseph Wiseman, Taina Elg, Francis L. Sullivan, Neville Brand, James Mitchell, Cecil Kellaway, John Dehner, Jarma Lewis and the wonderful child actress, Sandy Descher.

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