The Silver Chalice (1954)

VICTOR SAVILLE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5USA, 1954. Screenplay by , based on the novel by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , Rolf Gerard. Film Editing by . Academy Awards 1954. Golden Globe Awards 1956.

makes his debut as the main character of this bloated epic that is set, like all the most popular films of the Cinemascope era, in the ancient world. As a boy in Antioch, he was taken from his loving but poor father and purchased by a childless man of great wealth.  When his adoptive father dies, the now-grown Newman is denied his inheritance by the deceased’s brother, who sells him to a merchant as a slave. Our hero becomes a sculptor of silver whose talent achieves great renown, so much so that he is commissioned by a man following the increasingly popular Christian religion to turn a simple silver cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper into an ornate chalice worthy of worship. The assignment takes our handsome young hero from Antioch to Jerusalem, accompanied by his lady love and pursued by a mad magician () whose companion () once knew Newman as a child (when she was played by a young ). Made just after the popularity of these bright and colourful ancient epics reached a peak of popularity with The Robe, this one’s stark visual style emphasizing a muted colour palette and minimalist, almost theatrical sets should be a curiosity were it not for how dull and confused the screenplay is. The actors all do their best to make sense of the plot, Palance is particularly fun as the deliciously offbeat villain in superhero costumes, but the result never lands between reverence and ridicule and the experience is, for the most part, quite boring.

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