Two-part pseudo Bible epic that has its moments (in the first episode)
Narrating from the Bible, director Marcello Baldi took the Book of the Judges and turned its best-known chapters 6-8 (about Gideon) and 13-16 (about Samson) into a film. Well.
As a statement on responsibility and how people grow with their tasks, the first episode about Gideon's conversion to help his suppressed people fulfils its mission. Fernando Rey as the angel and Ivo Garrani as Gideon are equally effective. Garrani lends a touching element to the character of a simple farmer who is challenged to make the move from indifference to substantial leadership.
The second episode, as opposed to that, doesn't click at all. While "Gideon" has mostly outdoor scenes, "Samson" seems to have been restricted to the studio (Cinecittà, by the way). Yes - Rosalba Neri is duly ambiguous as Delilah, and Spanish veteran actress Ana María Noé is fine as Samson's mother - but muscular Dutch Anton Geesink reminds of a groggy Rocky IV. The concluding action scenes, though, were directed pretty well.
Remains unclear, what sense the picture had. Emilio Cordero's production company San Paolo, of Rome, financed three Old Testament filmings, apart from this one, "Giacobbe, l'uomo che lottò contro Dio", and "Saul e David", all directed by Baldi in 1963-4. If they were meant for people's spiritual edification, they probably didn't get off the ground as much as a service in St Peter. Italian release date, Oct 8, 1965, didn't quite support that idea, when most Bible flicks normally premiere around Christmas.
Another puzzle is the question who directed. Italian-language credits open with "un film di Marcello Baldi" and close with "regia: Francisco Pérez Dolz." It might be possible that either helmed one of the episodes, even more so because they are rather different in style.
The odd narrative technique (kind of a double feature, if you will), if appropriate to the Bible's episodical structure, tends to prove that the story of only one Israelite hero didn't fit the ninety-minute format, so, for the love of it, they put two stories together, presumably regardless of the fact that episodical films were alla moda in the mid-sixties.
Perhaps the weirdest bit about the movie lies in its resumption of the "Sansone" character, who, as a muscleman, had haunted Italian (and foreign) screens from "Sansone" (1961, with Brad Harris) to "Ercole Sansone Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili" (1964, with Renato Rossini). This one, however, is the only real Samson, although possibly the worst of all. It's like with the Bible: you've gotta believe in it...
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