review for Omar Khayyam on AllMovie

Omar Khayyam (1957)
by Craig Butler review

It's beautiful to look at and will please those viewers who ask little more of an epic than that it be exotic and eye-filling and feature a modicum of action, but Omar Khayyam will disappoint those who expect a bit more drama and genuine excitement from their sword-and-sandal flicks. Khayyam wants to be a rip roaring adventure, but it too often substitutes activity for excitement; it goes through the moves, but there's no real life in it. It also suffers from a failing common to such period offerings, namely dialogue that, when it is not stiff or stilted, is disturbingly anachronistic. Director William Dieterle certainly knows how to handle the crowd scenes and to make sure that the physical settings and trappings get sufficient play, but he doesn't seem to have a great deal of interest in the trite story or the cardboard characters. Oddity-collectors will be glad to view Yma Sumac, a cult singing sensation of the period who is here only to show off her freakish vocal stylings. And what of star Cornel Wilde? Well, he certainly looks dashing and handsome, but he lacks the genuine fire that the part requires and, though his shoulders are broad, they can't carry this spectacle in the fashion it demands. Raymond Massey is fine and Debra Paget is attractive, but the only notable performance comes from Michael Rennie, who finds surprising variety in his assassin character and comes out far and away as the most memorable player.