The Egyptian (1954)

Genres - Drama, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Religious Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 24, 1954 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 140 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The Egyptian has much to commend it and much to condemn it. Based on the 1945 novel by the esteemed Finnish writer Mika Waltari (1908-1979), the film depicts the life of the fictional Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom), personal physician to Pharaoh Akhnaton (1353-1336 B.C.). The production diverts audiences with outstanding cinematography, sets, and costumes -- all evocative of ancient Egypt and its mysteries -- and superb music composed by two giants of cinema scoring, Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann. Especially impressive are the haunting choral refrains and the rousing orchestral leitmotifs. The acting quality varies; Peter Ustinov is wonderfully entertaining as Sinuhe's valet, a kind of king's fool who kibitzes nonstop with trademark Ustinov drollery, but Bella Darvi is unrelentingly boring as Nefer, a Babylonian temptress who leads Sinuhe astray. Purdom plays Sinuhe with deep sobriety while Michael Wilding is even more solemn as Akhnaton, the 18th dynasty ruler famous for his belief in one god. Their emotional restraint contrasts with the blustery acting style of Victor Mature as Horemheb, a general who eventually seizes power. Overall, the script is pedestrian, replete with melodrama, historical inaccuracies, and bad lines. But the music score, the DeMille-style spectacle, and Ustinov's repartee make the film bearable -- and, at times, even enjoyable.