The Crusades (1935)

Genres - Action, Adventure, Epic, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Religious Epic  |   Run Time - 123 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

It's dreadful history and it's questionable as art, but The Crusades definitely scores as sheer entertainment. This is a big old-fashioned religious-historical epic in the classic Cecil B. DeMille manner, which means of course that facts can just be damned. DeMille had absolutely no interest in a history lesson; he just liked to take basic historical figures and events and use them as pawns in his own enjoyable chess game. Like many other DeMille products, he's also more interested in the spectacle and the action sequences than he is in the story that these elements are hung upon. Oh, he knows he needs a story; his interest in it doesn't extend to much more than making sure it makes some sort of sense and ties things together in a manner he deems satisfactory. Thus, we get a film in which the religious overtones of the Crusades are paid lip service but are subservient to the difficult romance between Loretta Young and Henry Wilcoxon. As is also usual with the director, there's a lot of lump dialogue to get through along the way. That said, the screenplay does have a couple of interesting points, notably the portrayal of Richard the Lion-Hearted as an uncouth brute and of the Muslim Saladin as refined and civilized. That's enough to keep things going between action sequences, which are quite wonderful; the battle at Acre is truly deserving of the adjective "spectacular." There's all the pomp and glamour and over-the-top visual delight one could wish -- more than enough to overcome any rough spots in the script.