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  • This Colossal is the story of a barbarous love that left Egypt's Great Pyramid as its landmark. The movie centers upon Khufu or Keops (Jack Hawkins) and the scheming Nellifer (Joan Collins) who holds dark schemes to inherit Egypt empire. She and her lover (Sydney Chaplin) design one plot to kill him . Their treachery stained every stone of the Pyramid. Before he will have to face amount dangers and risks until obtain his objective.

    Regarding the historic deeds, the film talks about Khufu(alias Keops). Keops was the second pharaoh of four dynasty from old empire Egyptian, and he made the great pyramid of Gyze that hold his name. He is succeeded by Kefren who made the sphinx Gyze and the pyramid. After goes on pharaoh Micerinos. Three pharaohs have pyramids on Gyze: Keops,Kefren and Micerinos.

    Warner Bros took pride in presenting one of the mightiest motion picture-making in entertainment history. The film blends drama, treason and hokey historical events. Intelligent screenplay by the Nobel Prize William Faulkner. Set design and Egyptian time production design by Alexandre Trauner are very spectacular. This huge epic film gets lots of crowd scenarios,fabulous gowns, dramatic scenes and is realized on a giant scale and full of spectacular sequences such as the building the Great Pyramid. The film was a colossal with big financial success, besides spectacularly and colorfully photographed by Lee Garmes and Russell Harlan . Filmed in Egypt with a cast of thousands of the largest cast ever set abroad from Hollywood . Fine score by Dimitri Tiomkin based on ancient music. The cast is frankly perfect, Joan Collins is wonderful in an overwhelming hammy acting as nasty queen, Alexis Minotis as high priest is excellent and James Robertson Justice as pyramid architect is fabulous. Epic scale direction by Howard Hawks is breathtaking and groundbreaking. Rating : Better than average. Worthwhile watching for Colossal aficionados.
  • Here's a film hotly criticized by not only many who saw the film, but by director Hawks himself. It's true, there's a bit of the Hollywood glam element to the production, but I'd say no more so than a half dozen other Hawks films, including the much more often praised "Rio Bravo" and "Hatari!"! (which both followed directly after "Pharaohs"). And the plot of "Pharaohs" makes a lot more sense than that of Hawks' earlier film, "The Big Sleep," which I believe is over praised because of its cast.

    As a grand epic from the era where they made them big and were not afraid to spend money where it would show up on screen, "Land of the Pharaohs" surpasses many other epics of its period and even many recent films dealing with a similar subject (1999's "The Mummy" comes to mind). "Pharaohs" has an impressive and very satisfying climax that makes perfect sense historically and dramatically.

    Also, no one seems to have mentioned the marvelous handling of crowds, particularly in the lengthy building of the pyramid sequence. I'll even go so far as to say the way Hawks composes his crowds for the cinemascope screen - arranging his Egyptian workers and pharaoh worshipers in intricate patterns with complex movements - rivals even Fritz Lang's similar work in "Metropolis" (1926), famous for its handling of crowds.

    I think one of the reasons the film keeps getting bashed is because people haven't seen it in its original widescreen format in many years. Until recently, no Region 1 DVD has been available, so in its cropped, pan and scan VHS incarnation, the film comes across as wimpy and ridiculous. As can be seen in the widescreen DVD release, the grandeur is stunning, its art direction, costumes, sets and locations all holding up marvelously.

    It must be said that composer Dimitri Tiomkin probably never wrote a score as majestically spirited as this one, a vast canvas of antiquity and drama. The cast is very much of its time, and some of the dialog is stilted and dated, but with the passing of time, most films suffer from this. Time passes and acting styles change. But a good plot holds up, and "Pharaohs" has plenty of the devious vs altruistic characters that drove many of Hawks plots effectively.

    The powers that be in Hollywood finally released the film on DVD, promoting it as a camp classic, adorning the cover with a cheesy shot of Joan Collins, the one thing they apparently consider notable and sell-able about the film. Too bad. Yes, "Land of the Pharaohs" does have an element of campiness, but there is true grandeur in the vastness of the production and the fact that its cast of thousands was indeed a cast of thousands, not CGI. Perhaps one day the wonders of this film will be given the appreciation it deserves. As time passes these epics seem to be acquiring as much antiquity as the genuine historical period itself.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Warner Bros. LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (1955) was one of those big widescreen spectacular epics that emerged in the fifties as Hollywood struggled against the onslaught of Television to maintain the cinema going population. It came in the middle of the cycle that began with "Quo Vadis" in 1951 and came to an end with the release of the multi-oscared "Ben Hur" in 1959. Beautifully photographed in Cinemascope and colour by Lee Garmes and Richard Harlan it was directed by the great Howard Hawks, who up to that time had never undertaken such a major project or one of such epic proportions and certainly not one concerning the building of a great Pyramid for an ancient Pharaoh. To moviegoers Hawks was known as the director of such staple Hollywood fare like the westerns "Red River" and "The Big Sky" and the Bogart Noir thrillers "To Have & To Have Not" and "The Big Sleep". "Land Of The Pharaohs" was such a departure for him I'm not sure if the giant production would perhaps be more suited and better handled by someone else like John Huston or William Wyler? Hawks himself - in a 1982 interview - said he was never happy with the movie "I messed it up! I thought it was great as far as masses of people and things like that, but I made a mistake. I should have had someone in there that you could root for. Everybody was a son of a b....". Watching this issue of the movie on DVD I have to say I am in accord with him. With the exception of Alexis Minotis who plays Hamer - the Pharoah Khufu's first minister and boyhood friend - there is nobody in the film you can have any empathy for and certainly no one you would be bothered rooting for.

    Nor is the film particularly well written despite the fact that William Faulkner was one of three writers assigned to the project. Also there is a major fault in its casting! Having British import Jack Hawkins in the leading role was a mistake on Hawks' part! Hawkins, a stiff unwieldy sort of performer was fine when playing British army officer types or a Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard or even a Roman Consul but here he appears decidedly out of his depth as a Pharoah in ancient Egypt. In some scenes he can even look fearful. Olivier would have been a better choice or perhaps Richard Burton who by this time was gaining star status.

    Then there's a remarkably poor performance from another British import - Joan Collins who plays Nelifer the woman who wangles her way to become Khufu's wife and conspires to relieve him of his vast treasure trove. Miss Collins, no doubt, is a feast for the eyes especially in some of the revealing outfits she wears but the lady simply cannot act! She delivers lines like a schoolgirl reading them in class without poise or conviction. Her performance is matched only by the ever bland Sidney Chaplin as her co-conspirator and the equally bland Dewey Martin. Coincidently, once Joan Collins comes into the picture it suddenly takes a left turn and begins its slide into mediocrity. What we get from here on is palace intrigue, conspiracy and histrionics on a grand scale. Another movie altogether really! Pity, because the first half wasn't too bad!

    All is not lost however, as the most tangible aspect of the film is the outstanding score by Dimitri Tiomkin! The very opening of the movie has a brilliant martial variation of the main theme played by massed brass choirs complete with guttural trumpets and baying horns as Khufu returns home leading a procession of his vast armies (yes there really is a cast of thousands just like the publicity says - none of your modern CGI here). Tiomkin's powerful music propels the movie forward and later in the picture's only outstanding set piece - the dressing of the stones in the quarry and moving the great stones into place - male and female voices intone joyously and triumphantly. It is one of the great moments in film music! And in the final reel it is Tiomkin's music that moves the great stones into position and seals the Pharaoh's tomb forever. Alongside John Wayne's "The Alamo"(1960) "Land Of The Pharaohs" is Dimitri Tiomkin's masterpiece!

    I give the movie a three star rating for the reasonably good first half, the fine early Cinemascope / colour cinematography and of course for Tiomkin's exciting score. The disc comes with a good trailer and a not so good commentary by Peter Bogdanovitch.
  • "Land of the Pharaohs" is on many Guilty Pleasure lists and deservedly so. You know it is only for entertainment purposes. Joan Collins as well as the character she portrays are over the top campy and not to be taken seriously. Her cruel, selfish Queen is utterly devoid of any redeeming qualities, utterly ruthless and wicked- in other words, delicious fun to watch.

    Most of the acting is high-quality, especially the legendary Jack Hawkins who is magnificent as usual although Yul Brynner or Charleton Heston probably would have fit the role better.

    Beautifully filmed with a very expensive look it is a movie with an obviously lavish budget. Despite the extravagance, I can fully understand why it didn't do well at the box-office. Focused on death and monuments it can be seen as somewhat depressing and has a grim, doomed aspect overall amid the splendor.

    Unless maybe written by Edgar Allan Poe, how is a film about a tomb going to attract a great public to the theater? The answer is: it didn't. It is not an adventure about getting to a tomb such as Indiana Jones-type films, it is basically only a film about a tomb itself.

    Death, murder, slavery, a tomb. If not handled just right these subjects can't succeed alone. Here they do, but just barely.
  • Land of the Pharaohs is directed by Howard Hawks and collectively written by Harold Jack Bloom, William Faulkner and Harry Kurnitz. It stars Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, James Robertson Justice, Dewey Martin and Alex Minotis. Music is by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography by Lee Garmes and Russell Harlan.

    It falls into the filmic splinter of historical epics that thrived greatly in the 50s and 60s, where a cast of thousands are costumed up to the nines, the sets sparkle and location photography smooths the eyes. Land of the Pharaohs has all these things, what it does lack is a high end action quotient, the makers choosing to craft a picture about intrigue in Pharaoh Khufu's (Hawkins) court as the great pyramid is constructed. This is not to say it's a dull picture, it maintains interest throughout, with shifty shenanigans afoot, femme fatale connivings and plenty of slaves standing proud for their cause. While the big finale is devilishly potent.

    However, one has to really close off the ears at times to avoid the dreadfully wooden dialogue, and some scenes are painfully misplaced, such as the sight of a miscast 45 year old Hawkins wrestling with a bull, I kid you not. Also miscast is Collins, undeniably sexy, but never once does she convince as an Egyptian princess, and her make-up is awful. There are stars in the film, but it does in fact lack star power. The real stars are Tiomkin, Garmes and Harlan, who each bring the spectacle of the production to vivid life. It was a minor flop at the box office and Hawks pretty much disowned it, but it's not without intelligence and in spite of its flaws it's a good watch for historical epic loving adults. 6.5/10
  • The best remembered Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's Forth Dynasty was Khafra. It is his face which adorns the Lion's Sphinx outside the city of Giza. However, it is Khafra's father, Khufu (Jack Hawkins) who is the subject of this incredible movie called " The Land of the Pharaohs. " During his reign, Khufu's story and written legacy is narrated by his infallible High Priest Hamar (Alex Minotis). He is not only well versed, literate, Intelligent and observant, but intuitive to a superior degree. While the pharaoh is busy conquering territory and greedily amassing a fabulous Golden treasure, his newest wife, Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins) is scheming to secure it for herself. The movie as directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, superbly depicts the capture of thousands of slaves who toil to build the Great Pyramid. Among them is a talented and gifted Architect named Vashtar (James Robertson Justice) who is chosen to design a 'thief proof' tomb in exchange for his people's freedom. William Faulkner wrote the movie script while music director Dimitri Tiomkin penned the exceptional and memorable sound track. The beautiful and colorful panoramic landscapes as well as the large scale dramatic scenes are a testament to Hawk's genius and has established this offering as a cinematic Classic. Excellent viewing for all. ****
  • Land of the Pharaohs is a fascinating, sometimes morbid glimpse into the Hollywoodized past. Unlike many epics, the film forsakes the usual Judeo-Christian perspective in favor of a completely pagan outlook. That, combined with some striking scenes involving the building of Khufu's pyramid, makes this worthwhile entertainment.

    Over the years, many have criticized the film, including Howard Hawks, Hawkins and Collins. On close examination, their criticism of the dialogue is only partially justified. While there is some verbosity, and the discourse between Khufu and his first wife over his desire for a son seems unnecessary if not ridiculous(in this instance actions would speak louder than words)the dialogue is more than serviceable. During the funeral ritual for the heroic dead, the grand, evocative speech is even inspired.

    Hawks also lamented that the film contained "no one to root for." Indeed, Hawkins' Pharaoh is decisive, infrequently warm and unquenchably greedy. As Princess Nellifer, Joan Collins is even more unsavory. There exists however, a necessary counterpoint in the character of Vashtar, who designs the pyramid in order to free his people. James Robertson Justice gives a sympathetic performance as the designer who is alternately good natured, thoughtful, and indignant at the pharaoh's cruelty. As the pharaohs advisor, Alexis Minotis manages a remarkable acting feat by enforcing Khufu's will and simultaneously evoking audience sympathy. As Vashtar's son, Dewey Martin's All-American boy persona is the only off key note.

    Despite the generally capable acting, the film's chief attraction is the abundant spectacle. The thousands of workers toiling to build the pyramid, and the colorful court pageantry, are what linger most in the viewer's mind. The much-discussed ending may or may not be historically accurate, but is nevertheless filmed with a chilling sense of realism. In short, Land of the Pharaohs is an interesting thematic departure from the epics of the 1950s.
  • Because it belongs to a genre that has grown unhip ,Howard Hawks's magnificent epic ,his only movie in cinemascope ,gets incredibly low ratings."Rio Bravo" 's screenplay is not much better than "pharaohs" ,but it's fashionable to put a western on your best movies list.A sword and sandal cannot be serious (with the exceptions of "Ben Hur" and "Ten commandments" )and that's why "the Egyptian" and "land of the pharaohs " are despised and dismissed as cheesy.

    Hawks's movie has one of the best ,most impressive and terrifying ending I know.These last pictures are a riveting tour de force with an editing to rival the best of Lang or Welles.The story spreads over fifteen years ,which is long for a relatively short work.Hawks was obviously more interested in his villains (Hawkins and Collins) than the heroes(the architect slave (Justice),his son and his people:both are fascinating.The pharaoh's dream of eternity is selfishness itself disguised as religion.To be buried with his riches to be able to enjoy them in his second life paradoxically seems a pagan attitude;the architect ,in direct contrast to him,is a slave who 's got nothing and he did not believe in life after life:it might make think of a Jew but neither him nor his people seem to have a religion,which is a very original move for a peplum (in Curtiz's "the Egyptian" ,the precedent year,the same went for the hero Sinouhe:these are the only examples in an epic).Hawks might have been influenced by Lang's wife's screenplay "das Indische Grabmal" ,which Lang finally took to the screen in the late fifties but which was filmed by others before him.Do not let the Faulkner reference fool you.He reportedly wrote half a page of script which can be summed up as follows:"Pharaoh pays a visit to the pyramid while the workers are sweating blood to get it done and he asks "how 's the work coming on?".

    Nellifer is Joan Collins at her bitchiest: a greedy woman,who had already problems with dynasties.Unlike pharaoh,she wants to have her cake and eat it.Her acting is pure camp ,which fits the character like a glove.Her fate will make your hair stand on end.

    Hawks makes a wonderful use of the cinemascope , when he displays a cast of thousands and when he directs his characters in the confined atmosphere of the pyramid.He succeeds in creating a sublime contrast between the dark subterranean of the grave and the luminous blue sky of the desert,particularly in the last sequences ,I say it again,among the very best of the fifties cinema.
  • KimB-329 June 1999
    It's hard to know how to rate movies like this because the genre is so inherently cheesy. In the grand scheme of all cinema, it probably should only get a 6 out of 10, but within the "swords and sandals" genre, it surely rates a 10! There are many classic themes here: an aging man's wish to be remembered through a great monument, a slave's desire to win freedom for his people, an ambitious woman's lust for power at any cost. Of course, everything is overacted and obvious as hell, but the plot stays focused, unrolling inexorably to it's horror-movie ending. This is Saturday afternoon escapism at its best.
  • My rating is about the number of times I saw this movie as a kid.

    All the other reviews aside, I wanted to reinforce one aspect of the film that is only mentioned in one other review: the score. Few scores gave me goose pimples as a kid, but this one did. The grandeur of the score exactly matched the vastness of the screen images. The scores of that era were influenced by the fact that Hollywood was still making really fine musicals, so the themes in the scores were memorable. I can still hum the theme today. I know today that these films are regarded as camp and corny, but for a kid growing up in that era, these films transported you to amazing places and times. The music in this film truly enhanced that experience.
  • paulagary27 December 2005
    This may not be the greatest movie ever made, but it is one of the most accurate in terms of its staging, costumes, and set design - especially for the era in which it was made. Despite Cecil B. DeMille's propaganda this movie accurately portrays the pyramid builders as Egyptian free men. The premise for the construction of Khufu's pyramid is exceedingly creative - and has been suggested by some scholars. Many of the outside construction scenes have been used in other movies and documentaries to provide a fairly realistic view of what the construction would have been like. And, Jack Hawkins made a terrific pharaoh - if you had to use a Caucasian. I first saw this movie as a child and was enthralled. I'm sure it helped fuel the interest I still have in scholarly excavations throughout the Mid East. Worth seeing for the sheer enjoyment and scenery.
  • franzfelix14 March 2005
    Although I know better, I confess I'd rather watch this movie than any number of masterpieces. Jack Hawkins (pharaoh) forces magisterial James Justice (slave Vashtar)to construct an impenetrable pyramid for his cache of loot. Pharaoh runs short of money, forcing subject provinces to cough up the funds to keep the public works project going...the excuse for a breathtaking and youthful Joan Collins to enter the cast, and in short order, to subjugate pharaoh himself. Eternal riches seem rather dull compared to her considerable mortal charms.

    All of this takes a back seat to the superb coup de main of the last five minutes when all the characters get their wish--for treasure, for power, and the security of eternity.

    The excellent musical score helps.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The pharaoh (Jack Hawkins) returns home after months in the desert, having fought his fifth war in six years...

    During his victorious escapades he has zealously and aggressively accumulated a large quantity of gold... He tells his loyal friend Hamar (Alexis Minotis), the high priest, that he desires two things: a son by his queen, Nailla (Kerima), and a secure tomb where he, and his marvelous treasures will be buried for eternity...

    Because he wants the royal tomb to be impregnable, he assigns the slave Vashtar (James Robertson Justice), an arquitect far superior to any Egyptian, to design it... Vashtar agrees to help the pharaoh on the condition that once the pyramid-tomb is constructed, his people will be freed... Only Vashtar, who will know the secret to entering the tomb, will have to die...

    With "one heart" the people of Ancient Egypt responded to the call of their "living god", and came from every town and village to raise for him the immense impressive structure for his second life... They marched to a "holy labor" with great faith and great joy... They came singing from every corner of Egypt for the great task...

    But the condensed work on the pyramid goes for years... During this time the queen bears the pharaoh a son, and Vashtar's son Senta (Dewey Martin) grows into manhood...

    The pharaoh asks every nation to send him a tribute in gold... But Cyprus sends him an attractive young woman named Nellifer (Joan Collins) instead... Although her refusal to obey his commands angers him, she excites him like no one ever has, and becomes his second wife...

    While the pharaoh is distracted by the progress on his pyramid, Nellifer carefully set a malicious plan to become heir to his throne and to his enormous treasures... She wins the heart of Treneh (Syney Chaplin), a palace guard, and together they plot to kill the queen...

    With a selected group of bald, tongueless priests who allowed themselves to be buried alive, some cowards who get thrown into an alligator pit, and a sultry, dark-haired beauty with the highest ambition, "Land of the Pharaohs" is an interesting excursion into Ancient Egypt, basically a macabre melodrama with a final spectacular twist... The engineering details would make a fascinating documentary...
  • Undoubtedly, "Land of the Pharaohs" is likely overlooked when film buffs consider what constitutes Howard Hawks's best work. It's rather giggle inducing when one thinks about the utter miscasting of most of the actors, and the utter silliness of so many lines. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad film. On the contrary, it's actually exquisitely made, on an obviously very impressive budget. Hawks and company work with literally thousands of extras in some scenes, and the production design and CinemaScope photography are among the best one will see for this genre.

    Jack Hawkins plays an Egyptian pharaoh named Khufu, who wants to be extremely prepared for his "second" life. He desires the perfect pyramid to be built to house his body and his plethora of treasures obtained from war. He learns that one of his current prisoners, Vashtar (James Robertson Justice), is an experienced architect, and indeed Vashtar comes up with some ingenious ideas for crafting an impregnable fortress. Meanwhile, Khufu obtains himself wife # 2, a young princess named Nellifer (Joan Collins). And she's a greedy and conniving person who stops at nothing to get what she wants.

    "Land of the Pharaohs" may be a challenge for some people to take seriously, but technically it really is well made, and it's consistently entertaining. Also in the cast are Dewey Martin as Vashtars' son Senta, Alexis Minotis as Khufu's loyal high priest Hamar, Sydney Chaplin as the traitorous Treneh, and James Hayter as Vashtars' friend Mikka. These people all do the very best that they can, but it's the ravishing young Collins who tends to steal the show - and whom the audience is likely to remember the most.

    Among the heaviest assets that this can boast are Dimitri Tiomkins' rousing music score, the cinematography by Lee Garmes & Russell Harlan, the art direction by Alexandre Trauner. and the various costumes (especially those worn by Collins). Viewers may also get a big kick out of the fairly grim twist ending.

    Seven out of 10.
  • Land Of The Pharaohs will go down in cinema history as Howard Hawks's attempt to out DeMille, the great Cecil B. in DeMille's own territory of cast of thousands spectacle. Hawks got a rather mixed reception for his film in that regard.

    In its way Land Of The Pharaohs is as campy a film as any DeMille ever gave us even without the arcane writing that typifies a DeMille product. Jack Hawkins as Pharaoh Khufu is the ruler that stretched Egypt's hegemony over its widest area and he's decided that he's going to have the biggest tomb around to symbolize his glory. To design such a tomb he drafts James Robertson Justice who is an architect among the prisoners of a recently conquered people. In a package deal Hawkins gets the son as well who grows up to be Dewey Martin and who during the course of the film incurs a big debt from Hawkins.

    The biggest problem in this film is that ultimately the subject of the film is ego and vanity. Hawkins with his bloody conquest and his desire to have a monument to stand for all time to his ego and vanity is just not a terribly sympathetic figure.

    But he's positively heroic to the vixenish young Joan Collins who starts out as a Cyprian princess given to Hawkins in return for tribute of a few thousand bushels of wheat. Right there Hawkins should have sent the baggage packing, trophy concubines he can get anywhere, but that grain was to feed his army of workers on that tomb.

    Once in the palace, Collins starts intriguing in her best Alexis Carrington manner, but she gets a rather fitting fate in the end.

    Land Of The Pharaohs does have some nice crowd scenes that DeMille might have envied. Some of the best scenes show the ancient methods of construction of the tomb with nice Dimitri Tiomkin music accompanying.

    But story and characters are the base of a really good film and Jack Hawkins is not a heroic Khufu by any means.
  • How can you have a great "swords and sandals" epic without Victor Mature and his gams? Perhaps by casting Joan Collins as a wickedly greedy princess with about a hundred costume changes. What can I say, I love this film. It's not even a guilty pleasure--I'll gladly watch it any Saturday afternoon. It's Hollywood at its best: a movie made just for the sheer enjoyment of watching movies. There's no deeper meaning or social agenda -- it's about a pyramid, an aging Pharaoh, a scheming woman, and a slave winning freedom for his people. What else does any picture need?
  • I will not add any details that have not been mentioned before.

    True, the film is a melodrama, but only a melodrama because some of the smaller details should have been better researched; for example, at the beginning of the film, Hamar (Hermiun ?) says "..this was pharaoh, direct descendant of our god Amun, who rules the heavens: as pharaoh rules the earth.." - a small boo-boo, Ra was the sun-god then. This is about the only criticism I can make, in fact I think that writers, actors, director and sets did an expert job of suspending my disbelief and on the strength of it the film deserves at least a 9: but I have given it a 10, and I'll tell you why:

    A lot of people give excellent reasons why they liked this film, but no one made much of Vashtar's mechanism and yet this was the star of the show. What I loved about it was the self-evident truth staring every cinema-goer in the face; there was no celluloid fancy or anachronism here. This was a piece of engineering that could really have been devised then; and the real Khufu would have inscribed Vashtar's name alongside his own! What can I add? Only my enjoyment of how it all worked: The drama and the look on Khufu's face as Centar lowered the great stone single-handed.. And the monolithic grind of a mechanism which "..once set in motion no power on earth could stop.."
  • While this may be a somewhat Readers Digest-level glimpse of 'pharaonic' Egypt - at the height of pyramid building, it has both high production values (-for the 50s-) as well as making an earnest attempt at accurately depicting what we then knew of ancient Egyptian life. Jack Hawkins - as Pharaoh, gives a better than journeyman's portrayal of a kindly autocratic leader, his beliefs, strivings and motivations - all conveyed believably. A youthful (very) Joan Collins - and maybe a bit on the chubby side, does rather well with a weakly written and somewhat soap-opera'ish part as the conniving #2 queen. James Robertson Justice is superb as the captured and enslaved architect-engineer; the one whom designs and then oversees for Pharaoh the building of his funerary pyramid; a structure replete with multiple self-sealing stone doors ingeniously powered by the "hydraulics" of sand. The cinematography, pacing and continuity are at the very least good. Director Howard Hawks does masterfully as a story teller with something worth saying. For its genre and vintage this is both a story and movie worthy of a view - especially by those inclined to also be somewhat interested in the 'how' of those ancient times as well as the 'who' and 'why.' It would be nice if this was soon available on DVD.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ''Land of the Pharaohs'' has become a film maudit. A french term for films which are considered cursed for reasons having to do with everything save the film. Hawks is famed for comedy, while this film is humourless. His films are also regarded as idealized portraits of camaraderie while this film is bereft of much of that(save for Greek chorus like workers, subjects and parades) and also because his film is a big budget epic on a non-Biblical and non-Roman theme. The biggest reason, cited by Hawks himself, is that this is a lone Hawks film where the characters are distanced and unlikable and the audience isn't encouraged to identify with them. It is this last quality that has served as the reason why this film has suffered neglect over the years.

    The story of ''Land of the Pharaohs'' deals with the reign of the Pharoah Khufu(Jack Hawkins, excellent as always) who after a long campaign decides to build a pyramid by which he can sail into the afterlife with his gold and jewels. However the Pharaoh is displeased by the designs suggested by his staff architects as they had previously been broken and tombs were robbed. To this end, the Pharaoh appoints a new architect among a conquered enemy tribe named Vashtar(James Robertson Justice) to create a pyramid that would remain permanently sealed. In exchange for making the Pharaoh his crypt, Vashtar forfeits his life but gives his people a chance to be freed.

    This is the main plot but the beauty of this film is that as in ''Red River'' and later ''Hatari!'', Hawks portrays a society of Egypt with enough fixed details in vignettes, asides that suggests a world and community of intertwined relationships, achieving something of a character of a documentary, to the extent that plot disappears and incidents take their character on the basis of point and counterpoint. During the montage of the pyramid construction(including an astonishing semi-circular pan) one gets the effect of watching a newsreel recently excavated. Hawks' film isn't realistic but it has a keen eye on how things function and work and about human relations.

    ''Land of the Pharaohs'' was made in 1955, the high point of Eisenhower's administration and post-war prosperity. Bearing this in mind(and from Heymar's intonation at the beginning that the story is set in the time that Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world), one can see this is an allegory about American expansion and capitalism. Hawks himself described the Pharaoh as an ancient predecessor to an American tycoon perhaps modeled on Howard Hughes, whom Hawks knew well. Jack Hawkins' domineering performance as the Pharaoh is also an extension of previous Hawksian figures, John Wayne in ''Red River'' obviously but also and less obviously John Barrymore in ''Twentieth Century''(the climactic scene of Nellifer's come-uppance is a repeat of the plot device at the end of that film) and according to reports, on Hawks himself, except one wonders if Hawks would have been as objective as he is if he shared it one hundred percent.

    ''Land of the Pharaohs'' isn't a perfect film but it is a film that offers patient audiences rich cinematic rewards. Technically it's a work of high craftsmanship, featuring spectacular sets from the legendary Alexandre Trauner, wonderful use of the CinemaScope frame and also one of Hawks' best and most briskly edited films. Unlike other epics which drag on for 3hrs or close to that, this film clocks in at 15mins short of two hours and yet it has more depth and riches than the other films. A lot happens in ''Land of the Pharoahs'', palace intrigues, sexual power-plays(in a debased parody of the usual Hawksian clash of sexes), murders and deaths. In fact by the end of the film, the Pharaoh himself disappears and the story continues after him, one of the most innovative aspects of Hawks' film.

    The commercial failure of ''Land of the Pharaohs'' sent Hawks in a personal crisis and it took four years before he returned with ''Rio Bravo''. It also marked the final time he collaborated with William Faulkner on the screenplay(he's one of three credited with the screenplay) and some of the darker aspects of this film, the ones dealing with death, and survival convey(for the first time) Faulkner's own personality. The last shot of Vashtar's tribe leaving Egypt after the pyramid is sealed contains the same weight as that page in one of his books which ends with "they endured."
  • It's hard to say just what it is because on the surface "Land of the Pharaohs" doesn't appear to add up to much. It's director disowned it but like the pharaoh of his film, Hawks may have "built better than he knew". The film expresses a mindset that feels sincere in its belief that the afterlife is more important than the present. This is not a biblical story but it manages to represent religion in a more tangible form that almost all the film epics of the Judeo-Christian epoch did. There is a haunting heart of reality in Hawk's made up world. The colors, the cinematography, and the incredible score, all make you feel as if you are there in a way, say "The Ten Commandments", never achieves. I've read that none less than Marty Scorcese rates this as his all-time cinematic guilty pleasure. There's something about the Catholic boy's appreciation of ritual and religious mystery which must come to play in this. I've heard he's seen it thousands of times and that he often lets it play without the sound like a motion painting hung in the background. He's actually called it "a pillow", something you can roll over and rest on. I don't know what exactly it is that creates it but there is a sense of mysticism in this film. It may be melodramatic on the surface but there is something very captivating just underneath.

    No one grasped the potential of CinemaScope until John Sturges filled the new frame with a vast nothingness in "Bad Day at Black Rock" and it wasn't until "Land of the Pharaohs" that the cinema actually saw just how impressive filling all that new space could be. It's placement on many lists of the greatest cult film doesn't surprise me.
  • The memorable ending was probably inspired by a brief comment by Herodotus, about how the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Herodotus calls him Cheops) was sealed solid. It's the earliest known writing on the events of the story and it was penned near a thousand years afterward. Needless to say, not much is known about the real Khufu; we only have an idea of what he even looked like, from a minor statue around his era that might be him (I've seen a photo of it, and--sonovagun--it does look a little like Jack Hawkins!).

    In any case, not having much info to use, Hollywood was free to invent, and they did, creating a very entertaining and spectacular flick. It may not be history, but it sure is fun, and the pyramid-building scene is, logistically speaking at least, the most impressive sequence ever achieved by director Howard Hawks.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Who can ever forget Joan Collins whining, "I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die!"? Who knew cobras could memorize annoying tunes? Who knew pyramids were so technically advanced, and with the wondrous power of SAND? Who can resist falling on the floor laughing when the tongueless priests of Amon answer questions?

    This movie is well worth watching, but *not* if you mean to take it seriously. It's just for fun--grand in scope and spectacle, grand in its overblown writing. Definitely a must-see, but perhaps better with mind-altering substances to help.

    I love this dreadful movie!
  • Lejink15 May 2012
    I love Howard Hawks but was aware of this film's reputation as his biggest flop, so much so that he gave up making movies for some years after its critical mauling and commercial failing.

    To be fair, it's not hard to see why. Obviously seeking a slice of the "Biblical epic" bounty (although there's not a Christian in sight here), Hawks weighs in with a fantastic spectacle, from the location photography, to the crowd scenes to the set building of Pharaoh's tomb with its intricately engineered self-sealing mechanisms, but gives us a story with no dramatic tension or interest, over acted by a not quite top rank cast.

    It's easy in fact to see Jack Hawkins and the young Joan Collins as stand-ins for dare I say it Burton and Taylor but even they would struggle to give life to the script here.Also Hawks dwells far too much on his spectacle, the camera lingering on every panorama for what seem interminable minutes while the dialogue is over-expository at best, stilted at worst.

    The central characters of Hawkins vainglorious Pharaoh and Collins' girl-on-the-make Nellifer garner no sympathy at all and the main plot device of Hawkins building a tomb for his own posterity is hardly one to quicken the pulse. There are sub-plots involving Pharaoh's passed over first wife and son, Nellifer and her lover, the captain of the guard and master-architect James Robertson-Justice's efforts to free his vanquished people from hostage by indulging Pharaoh's grand scheme, but none of it comes together, not helped as indicated by dialogue as old and dry as the desert sand.

    On the acting, only Robertson-Justice scores by down-playing his character, something everyone else on the set could have learned from.

    On the evidence of this, Hawks was right to take a hiatus from Hollywood after "Land Of The Pharaoh's" release. This is tired, stolid work and almost unrecognisable as one of his movies.
  • pronker6 September 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    A rewatch today made me anticipate the end scene all throughout the film - so much so that all the grandeur and scope of the first hour came as a pleasant surprise. Yes, I am interested in the technical aspects of how the pyramids were made and this film's plot is as good a speculation as any. Watch it for that alone.

    You can't help but see that the parallels between the Book of Exodus' Hebrews and this film were meant to be applied, because Cushites are pretty much unknown to modern audiences and thus the ending scene of Justice and his Cushites marching out into the desert are necessary for that familiar touch.

    What I especially liked were the religious aspects of a totally foreign way of life and thought - all the preparation for the afterlife while in the middle of 'life.' It's impossible to relate to without really thinking about the theme of this movie, shoving all the melodrama aside. I enjoyed the first hour quite a bit and the second not as much, but boy, that ending scene still resonates.
  • When I watched this film, I fully expected to witness a 1950's camp drama. But what I found was a very gripping script and excellent performances, in particular Joan Collins. The ending gave me chills!
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