The Silver Chalice (1954)

Genres - Epic  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama, Religious Epic  |   Release Date - Dec 20, 1954 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 143 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Paul Newman often bemoaned his debut screen performance in The Silver Chalice -- and with good reason. One of the screen's most talented actors, Newman is simply dreadful in a part for which he was fundamentally unsuited. While he undeniably looks great and, even at this early stage, knows how to play to the camera, the part calls for an actor at home in historical epics and comfortable with the kind of melodramatic mush that fills most such screenplays. Newman is simply dull -- unlike the similarly miscast Virginia Mayo, who, with makeup that must be seen to be believed, vamps her way through the part in classic camp manner. Indeed, though Chalice is a pretty bad movie, much of it is enjoyable as an unintentional "hoot." Certainly, the screenplay is filled with the kind of lines that inspire appreciative guffaws, and Victor Saville's direction -- a curious blend of naïveté and "let's just get the job done" professionalism -- somehow makes things even funnier. Jack Palance and Lorne Greene help add to the camp factor, especially the former, whose mad wizard must be seen to be believed; the character's "I'm flying" climax is truly noteworthy. Of the large cast, only a young (and blonde) Natalie Wood manages to give a decent non-camp performance. Ridiculous it may be, and no one would ever confuse it with a good movie, but Chalice is fun -- for people who approach it in the proper spirit.