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starring Jeffrey Hunter, Siobhan McKenna, Hurd Hatfield, Robert Ryan
screenplay by Philip Yordan
directed by Nicholas Ray
by Jefferson Robbins Painterly and static, for the most part, Nicholas Ray's King of Kings boasts one truly remarkable, energetic camera feat: a view from the top of the crucifix, gazing down the length of Jesus's body as he's hoisted into position for martyrdom. It stuck in Martin Scorsese's mind, too, and a variation of the shot appeared in his The Last Temptation of Christ. It's not an unfair comparison, as the two films both seek new paths into the Christ story by collapsing the degrees of separation between characters, plumbing the politics of Roman-controlled Judea, and introducing moments of doubt and pain for Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter) that are not merely spiritual, but personal as well. When the Messiah visits the house of his mother Mary (Siobhan McKenna), he offers to apply his carpentry skills to a broken chair upon returning from his next fateful act of ministry, in Jerusalem. "The chair will never be mended," Mary says, and they mutually, silently acknowledge the destiny laid out for him. It's not Willem Dafoe boinking Barbara Hershey, but it is a human moment--the Son of Man craving a simple man's life.