18 June 2004 | Chip_douglas
When the Son of the Sun met Desire
Although their story in the Old Testament only spans three chapters in the Book of Judges, the popular tale of Samson and Delilah is stretched out into a three hour entry mini series here. All the characters (many not mentioned by name in the scriptures) are elaborated upon, as is the situation between the Israelites and the Philistines. The Gaza court is well (if a bit predictably) portrayed: Michael Gambon as wise King Hanun is constantly bickering with his hotheaded (and red bearded) son Sidqa (Ben Becker). Well cast Liz Hurley plays the part of Delilah both slutty and posh as the king's niece, while top billed Dennis Hopper portrays the smart and sarcastic General Tariq. Hopper gets some of the best lines, but fails to give them that George Sanders delivery and is the only one looking out of place in these settings and costumes.
Delilah only really figures in the last part of Samson's story, but there are enough scenes featuring her and the Philistines to justify her name in the title. Actually, the two main characters almost meet in part one, where she turns out to be the main reason why Samson fought that animatronic lion from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. In the title role, Eric Thal is a virtual babe magnet himself, rescuing the outspoken Naomi (Jale Arikan) before choosing a Philistine bride (Deborah Caprioglio) to the dismay of his parents (reliable Diana Rigg and Paul Freeman). Screenwriter Alan Scott put great emphasis on Samson's search for a purpose in life, making him comes across a very modern (i. e. constantly worried) hero.
One point repeatedly made in the Book of Judges is the lawless nature of this time period (between 1200 - 1000 b.c.). This is addressed in a new sub plot concerning the brothers Jehiel and Amram. They betray Samson in order to become rulers themselves, leading to the familiar scene involving the jawbone of an ass. Most of these action sequences are filmed with skewed angles, making Samson look even more like a comic book superhero. To this effect they could not show him mishandling 300 foxes to burn down enemy crops (as it was written). Unfortunately the chapter about tearing the town gates from their hinges is more implied than shown, but this does lead to an interesting bit of foreshadowing for Dennis Hopper's character in the temple.
Director Nic Roeg makes effective use of flashbacks during two crucial scenes, adding greater meaning to both of them. First the love scene between Samson and Delilah is interwoven with scenes from the lion fight and secondly Samson relives his ultimate betrayal when forced to 'witness' the defeat of the Israelite army. The latter scene also resolves the plot strand concerning Jehiel and Amram in a satisfactory way and indeed every character arc is neatly resolved before the end. Shame about all those bouncing foam pillars during the climax though.
8 out of 10