Barabbas (1962)

Genres - Epic  |   Sub-Genres - Religious Epic, Sword-and-Sandal  |   Run Time - 135 min.  |   Countries - Italy, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Overlong and at times ponderous, Barabbas has the look and ambition of classic Biblical epics, but it lacks the life and vitality necessary to break into the top ranks of that genre. Barabbas is not a bad film of its kind; it simply doesn't rank up there with The Ten Commandments or Ben-Hur. The fault certainly doesn't lay with its star. Anthony Quinn gives a commanding performance, albeit one limited by an inferior script. Still, epics of this sort don't call for carefully nuanced character explorations; they call for someone who can take hold of the film and never let go, and Quinn fills that role admirably. If Quinn occasionally goes a bit over the top, that's almost really to be expected. There's also some fun scenery chewing by Jack Palance, and some game attempts from Arthur Kennedy and Vittorio Gassman to help keep things moving. The cast gets no help from the screenplay, which is short on logic and characterization, and long on dull dialogue and ineffective repetition. Richard Fleischer's direction is too uneven to make up for the script deficiencies; he does very well with some sequences, including the stunning real-life solar eclipse sequence and the gladiator segment, but on others things fall flat. And pacing is an issue, especially in the middle section. Even with its flaws, there's enough spectacle and fanfare to keep fans of the genre interested.