14 April 2011 | Bunuel1976
SINS OF JEZEBEL (Reginald Le Borg, 1953) **
The box-office success of Cecil B. De Mille's SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949) spawned a series of movies that were inspired from Biblical tales in The Old Testament. None of them, however, quite overtook in popularity their prototype or De Mille's later remake of his own THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956); for the most part, in fact, they turned out to be low-budget, second-rate programmers tailored for the needs of past-their-prime Hollywood sirens – so much for the would-be moral values the stories ostensibly highlighted! Needless to say, this is one of them: shot for a mere $100,000 in just 3 days (if we are to believe the IMDb's claims!), it featured 43-year old Paulette Goddard as the Phoenician beauty for which Israelite King Ahab (Eduard Franz) loses both his head and his faith.
It goes without saying that the Queen's romantic attentions lie elsewhere – her new Captain of the Guards (George Nader) – and that resident prophet Elijah (John Hoyt) is none too pleased that his weakling monarch has acceded to his wife's request of erecting a temple in honor of her god, Baal! Two more notable actors who put in subpar appearances here are Ludwig Donath (as the one adviser of King Ahab's that resists the practice of pagan worship and gets framed – and stoned to death – for his troubles!) and future member of The Three Stooges, Joe Besser (as a chubby charioteer purportedly providing the requisite comic relief); just as predictable – and even more implacable – is the inclusion of a dance routine performed here by one Carmen D'Antonio.
Although the film is atypically short (74 minutes) for such exotic fare, it still features a lengthy prologue (clearly modeled on SAMSON AND DELILAH itself - as is the music score!) and epilogue, plus intermittent interpolations from Hoyt in a second(!) role – dressed up as a modern-day University rector but eventually leaving the room carrying Elijah's own walking cane! – a cheapskate ploy intended to fill in the obvious narrative gaps. Events come to a head when a drought befalls the Israelites for having abandoned God and we are witness to a battle of wills between Elijah on one side and Goddard and her High Priests on the other over whose deity will grant their animated prayers for rain! Unfortunately (if unsurprisingly) not even Goddard's prophetic end – being eaten by dogs! – provides the goods here...but, truth be told, this proved a mercifully trim time-waster that fits the bill harmlessly for this time of the year.
Incidentally, Goddard would only go on to make just 4 more films after this, including William Castle's CHARGE OF THE LANCERS (1954) that I also have in my collection; speaking of Castle, he too made his fair share of cut-rate spectacles before he struck a gold mine with exploitative horror, including SERPENT OF THE NILE: THE LOVES OF CLEOPATRA, SLAVES OF BABYLON (both 1953) and THE SARACEN BLADE (1954) – all 3 of which I also have a copy of and might get to watch before this month is out...