(out of 5)
Highly enjoyable Biblical epic that does a dramatically impressive job of telling the story of Queen Esther, the woman who saved her fellow Jews from complete extermination by the King of Persia. Having been kidnapped on her marriage day and brought to the palace as a possible wife to King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes depending on your translation), Esther (a young and dewey Joan Collins) tries desperately to avoid the melancholy of being away from home until she realizes that her intended husband isn’t the evil tyrant she perceived him to be. The King (played with monstrously bad Yankness by Richard Egan) chooses her as the perfect wife, unaware of her heritage, and they marry once she genuinely falls in love with him. Chief advisor Haman (Sergio Fantoni) has diabolical plans to assassinate the King, take his throne and enact a genocide against all Jews in the kingdom; Esther’s heroic act of holding out against this evil, and risking her own neck to do it, eventually forms the basis of the celebration of Purim. Lavishly produced in Italy with a few stinky lines (the King is trying to remember the name of the Greek upstart who is looking to take his kingdom and is reminded that it’s ‘Alexander?’ ‘That’s the one!’) amid the generally well written dialogue and strong direction by Raoul Walsh.
Screenplay by Raoul Walsh, Michael Elkins
Cinematography by Mario Bava
Produced by Raoul Walsh
Production Design by Giorgio Giovannini
Costume Design by Anna Maria Feo
Film Editing by Jerry Webb