Samson and Delilah (1949)

Genres - Epic  |   Sub-Genres - Religious Epic  |   Run Time - 131 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

Despite its campy dialogue and hammy acting, this 1949 Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic hit paydirt at the box office and remains popular on TV movie channels. Credit the following for its enduring appeal: the knockout beauty and exposed bellybutton of Hedy Lamarr portraying Delilah; the virility and acrobatic eyebrows of Victor Mature portraying Samson; the hand-to-paw combat between a ferocious lion (really a toothless stand-in) and Mature (really a stuntman); and the extravagance of DeMille's sets and costumes. DeMille was always willing to go big, whatever the cost, hiring the most popular stars to recite the lines and the best carpenters and engineers to build the backdrops. In Samson and Delilah, however, he was not willing to go overseas. The entire production was filmed in California. There is plenty of action, as Samson wrestles, cracks skulls, and topples a massive building. There is also romance, as Delilah bewitches Samson and he bends a spear for her. Finally, there is visual splendor in the silks and satins, jewels, gleaming armor, and Technicolor. George Sanders delivers the best performance in the film as a jaded, worldly wise ruler in Gaza. The most spectacular scene occurs at the end of the film after Samson has his famous bad hair day and grows back enough of his locks to wreak revenge. Most critics hate the film, but they probably watch it when nobody is looking.