10 January 2015 | TheLittleSongbird
Nero's "he didn't fly" can also be applied to this film
Okay, The Silver Chalice is not that terrible, but considering the talent it was a huge disappointment and saw the worst work and films of almost everybody involved(apart from Jack Palance, he was in the Gor films and that bizarre Treasure Island adaptation).
The Silver Chalice does have some good things. William V Skall's cinematography and Franz Waxman's score were nominated for Oscars and the nominations were deserving, the cinematography is beautiful and makes the most of the spectacle while the music positively sweeps, is lushly orchestrated in distinctive Waxman fashion and gives the film heart and pace. Jack Palance is enormously entertaining and maniacal as magician Simon, it's over the top- but you can say that that was in comparison to the rest of the performances- but in a deliciously gleeful way. Pier Angeli gives a heartfelt performance as well and Simon's flying off the sky scraping Tower of Babel is an unforgettable scene and close to being the highlight of the film.
Paul Newman on the other hand is very wooden and ill-at-ease in his role, it is his debut(one that is understandably one he'd rather forget) but he was an amazing talent in acting and that did not come through here. Virginia Mayo is alluring but looks completely and utterly lost and Natalie Wood is quite charming but her acting is bland compared to her usual performances. Joseph Wiseman and Lorne Greene are largely wasted(Greene at least though had his concluding narration that was mildly powerful). They are hindered by very sketchily written characters and as dreary and stilted a script as you can get where the one memorable line is Nero's "he didn't fly"(for me it is one of, perhaps THE worst script for a biblical film). Victor Saville's direction never comes to life and the story feels overlong, stodgy and over-stretched with scenes that are either stagy, superfluous or unintentionally funny(some also like the fighting over the gown and with the dancers that would be better belonging somewhere else). The costumes are the opposite of lavish, rather a hodge-podge with some not fitting at all with the setting, with Palance donning the weirdest costumes of his whole career(especially the last one, admittedly he does wear them well). The make-up goes well over-the-top, Mayo is caked in it and it cheapens her looks, it's that ridiculous, and while a few sets are amazing most are bizarrely stylised that it gives the film a cheap look.
In conclusion, The Silver Chalice is not a terrible film with the cinematography, score and Palance making it halfway watchable, but as a whole it, like Simon, didn't fly with everybody involved deserving far better than this. 4/10 Bethany Cox