Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Samson and Delilah

Ah, yes, Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah. From the guy who directed The Ten Commandments, King of Kings, Sign of the Cross and The Greatest Show on Earth, among many, many others. But Samson and Delilah is the one with the most cheese. So kick back and break out the wine...
... or we can just get a few gallons of water and wait a bit -- Jesus said he would swing by after he gets off work. He digs DeMille flicks, but can get kind of snarky about things not being how He remembers them...
DeMille Biblical epics are pretentious, overblown filmmaking at its most extravagant. The sets are enormous, the extras legion, the Technicolor so lurid it should be advertising a peepshow -- and there is usually plenty of cleavage, herds of scantily clad dancing girls and muscle men, also a few rounds of light-to-moderate bondage. And, oh, the dialogue, delivered in performances that are either wooden or scenery-devouring, but nowhere in between. "Where's ya God now, Samson?" Indeed.
First, we have Victor Mature as Samson, leader of the Danites. Samson's favorite things are drinking, gambling, stealing and chasing Philistine tail -- yeah, i know, sounds like Rob Ford or Oscar Goodman. But, unlike them, Samson has genuine qualifications for the gig, namely, super-strength. Actually, that's his only qualification, but it is a pretty awesome one.
Still, Victor Mature is welcome in any film. He was laid-back and self-mocking, but could bring beefcake or tough guy when needed. Also, I knew a guy once whose grandfather had been a refrigerator repairman. One day, he went to repair Victor Mature's refrigerator, the two hit it off and became buddies. Also, he was the only one of Rita Hayworth's paramours who was nice to her. (They were engaged, but then she ditched him for Orson Welles. One of the few times a woman made a mistake by choosing the genius over the handsome lug.) Willing to hang with the working class -- not just once, but many times, as a friend -- and kind to chronically depressed, terminally exploited women. Victor Mature is A-OK in my book.
And we have Delilah, played by Hedy Lamarr. It's interesting to watch Hedy Lamarr movies now, knowing that she was a brilliant woman who helped invent the technology that led to the cell phone. Because none of that reads on screen. Beautiful, one of the the truly great faces, but seemingly with little-to-nothing going on in there. Although maybe she was just checked out -- she did once say "Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid," although Samson and Delilah also demands that she do a lot of bouncing and slinking and pouting. And she wears some insane Biblical temptress drag courtesy of Edith Head. That cape? Made of real peacock feathers. From the peacocks on DeMille's lawn. I shit you not.
So, to the movie. Some Philistines beat up some Danites, someone rushes to tell Samson but he don't care. In fact, he takes the opportunity to ditch his girl Miriam and take off to play stalker at his favorite Philistine babe, Semadar. Semadar has shiny armor and weapons and a chariot and is kind of a proto-Khaleesi in style. Except played by Angela Lansbury. Yes, Jessica Fletcher, badass warrior woman in a studded midriff top
Really, it's not that far off. Before she wore Quacker Factory sweaters and solved mysteries in time to get the senior discount on the early bird special, Angela Lansbury usually played some sort of sexy, second-lead bad girl. She played a Wild West hooker who was mean to Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls, she was a trampy maid who helps drive Ingrid Bergman insane in Gaslight...
Semadar is betrothed to Ahtur, some Philstine honcho but Samson wants her anyway. Of course, Delilah, Semadar's little sister wants Samson, but he's uninterested in her...

But Samson has a plan. See, the Saran -- not the plastic wrap, but the leader of Dan-land or Philistinia or wherever we are -- is coming to hunt a lion. Samson thinks if he can kill the lion first, maybe he can swap a dead lion for a live girl. Of course, Delilah thinks the live girl will be her, so she helps Samson get to the lion first. Or should i say "lion" because it's pretty obvious that what's happening is A) a guy who is about six inches shorter than Mature and wearing a bad wig mambos with an toothless lion, and B) Victor Mature wrestles an empty lion suit.
Amazingly, Victor Mature manages to win a battle against an  inanimate object. All the hunters show up late and are astonished that Samson killed a "lion" with his bare hands.
And now we have George Sanders as Saran! I am always happy to see George Sanders. No one does jaded and over it better than George Sanders, Addison DeWitt HimSelf, the man who fled the Russian Revolution, married two Gabor sisters, made over 100 films and left a suicide note that opened "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored..."
George Sanders hands Jessica Fletcher over to Victor Mature. All the Philistines are pissed but come to his wedding anyway because they're greedy boozehounds. Samson decides to show off that he ain't no dopey Danite by asking them a riddle. They cannot solve it until Hedy Lamarr hints that they should ask Jessica Fletcher, who totally gives it up to Ahtur in more ways than one...
Ouch, heifer! Hey, fight scene!
The other Philistines kill Semadar and her dad and burn the house down. Samson and Delilah escape. He disappears into the city...
Delilah goes from annoying kid sister to chief courtesan, where her primary gig is playing domina to Saran (like many all-powerful men, he pays a woman to treat him like crap). There is also a whiff of the Addison-to-Eve in Saran's attachment to Delilah -- he takes great pleasure in watching her and especially in watching her make suckers of everyone within range... except him. Edith Head rubs her hands together and mutters "You ain't seen nothin' yet" -- the array of 40's ankle-strap heels alone is astonishing.

The Philstines hassle the Danites, Victor Mature turns himself in. Then, he smites some ass!

So, who else to call but Delilah? She goes to capture Samson for Saran, but it just turns into a romantic interlude. A lot of drinking of wine and bathing in pools and playing harps and eating grapes but then...
Bam! Samson gets a call from his old girlfriend Miriam that shit is really bad in the hometown -- for a leader, Samson has quite a habit of just taking off to get wasted and laid until someone drags him back. Still, Delilah's jealous blah blah, tell me the secret of your strength or I'll cry blah blah...
Also, bear in mind that this is the second time some woman has "you don't love me"-d Samson into giving up a huge secret that will wreck everything if it gets out. But he rats himself out again and now we come to the Samson and Delilah money shot: The big haircut and the hauling away by The Man.

 And, sure, Saran promises Delilah, that no blade will touch Samson's skin, no blood will be shed. But, well, we've got a bunch of angry cops who've lost some of their own led by a jealous boyfriend. And she didn't say anything about not blinding him...
 So, Samson is blinded and chained to a big wheat-grinding wheel -- just like what happened to Conan in Conan the Barbarian, except all the villagers come to shout and throw things at him and the guards knock him around. Hedy Lamarr shows up and is all stoked to see him until she realizes that he's blind.
She reminds Saran of his promise but, hey, he got around that. One doesn't become Lord of the Five Cities by being a nice guy and leaving the loopholes alone. Not that he's the one who's really to blame, as he reminds Delilah when she becomes oh-so-tearful and oh-so-sorry. And he just reads her to filth.

So, the plan is to drag Samson to the temple of Dagon, because apparently the Philistines worship the same god that the creepy queen and Wilt Chamberlain do in Conan the Destroyer. Yeah, i've never touched a Bible except to move one out of the way in a hotel room, but i do know every damn second of both Conan movies. You have your sacred texts, i have mine...
Destroyer, 58:27 "Nothing hurts you. Only pain."

So, as we all know Samson is gonna knock down the temple. But, first, some bullshit. Hedy Lamarr is still really sad about Samson. Then Samson's old girlfriend Miriam and her little brother Saul show up to beg for mercy. George Sanders says he'll let Hedy Lamarr decide and of course she's all like "Fuck no, bitch, I'll let them keep humiliating and torturing his ass until he dies before I'll let you have him back."
Yup, that's Russ Tamblyn as Saul, future king of the Danites. "When you're a Danite you're a Danite all the way...."

So, more booing and throwing of things. And they've set up some kind of special little people torment for him. Not badass Tyrion Lannister little people, but drunken Munchkin asshole little people.
But Delilah finally decides to lead him to the pillars so he can knock down the temple. Because, seriously, no one noticed that his hair grew back.
Barbarians, 28:04 "... To crush your enemies,
to see them driven before you, to hear the lamentation of their women."

And the temple falls, crushing everyone.  You have to remember: This was before CGI. A herd of workers spent weeks building that whole damn set to the actual size you see. Every one of those extras was a real live person collecting a paycheck and craft services.

If i have to have cinematic Biblical propaganda laid on me, i'll take the Technicolor camp madness of Samson and Delilah over some bullshit about Greg Kinnear's kid who shoulda stayed in heaven or some Kirk Cameron B.S. No diggity.

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