Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. United Kingdom, 1962. Horizon Pictures. Screenplay by Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson, based on the writings of T.E. Lawrence. Cinematography by Freddie Young. Produced by Sam Spiegel. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by John Box. Costume Design by Phyllis Dalton. Film Editing by Anne V. Coates. Academy Awards 1962. Golden Globe Awards 1962.
This is not just a movie, it’s THE movie: David Lean’s epic masterpiece first arrived on screen in 1962, but it seems ageless even now after so many years. Peter O’Toole makes a fantastic film debut as T.E. Lawrence, a bored cartographer for the British Army in World War One who gets the assignment of a lifetime when he is asked to observe Arab military movement in Saudi Arabia. From the moment he gets into the desert he is taken over by his fascination with the very strange and exotic culture that surrounds him, and ends up being of some assistance to both his new friends and the British back home when he decides to participate in a major battle. Omar Sharif is also brilliant as Lawrence’s best friend, whose intimacy with him under Lean’s direction is intense to the point of being practically erotic. Recently restored to its original near-four hour length (the original was cut due to economic reasons, and for the sequence of Lawrence being sexually assaulted in a Turkish prison that was thought too risque), this film boasts a giant cast, thrilling battle sequences, and probably the best feature film photography ever seen (the beautiful vistas of the desert are simply incomparable to anything else ever seen on the big screen). It’s also a giant epic film with a whole lot of intelligence, a brainier entertainment than all the junky giants like Ben-Hur and The Robe that audiences had been putting up with for more than a decade. Also stars Arthur Kennedy, Claude Rains and a very convincing Alec Guinness as an Arabian prince.