VCI Home Video // 1965 // 113 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 11th, 2005
Proudly denting giant craniums since 1965!
Hi, kids. Today, we're going to be talking about one of the better-known Bible stories, that of King David, possibly the greatest and most beloved ruler Israel ever had. But his rise to Old Testament superstardom came at great cost. Let's take a look, shall we?
The prophet Samuel has been prompted by God to anoint the new kings of Israel. Saul (Norman Wooland), a perfectly capable ruler, devout and attentive to Jehovah's commands, gets tapped to wear the crown. He's not bad, but eventually he strays from the Big Man, and Samuel is sent to anoint another.
This time, a scrawny young shepherd boy gets the call. He is, of course, David (Gianni Garko; sounds kind of like "Donnie Darko" with a speech impediment), a brave teenager who makes his first big splash in a one-on-one fight against Goliath, a full-scale Philistine bastard who's been taunting the Israelites for days. David convinces Saul to let him take on Goliath, and Saul reluctantly agrees -- though he senses something divine about the boy. Well, we all know what happens. David takes his slingshot and fires a pebble square into the forehead of Goliath, who, in quite vivid detail, falls and dies. The Israelites proceed to rout the Philistines (the Washington Generals of the Old Testament), and David immediately rockets to fame and awesomeness.
He grows up to become a valuable asset to Israel, smiting many an enemy, and becoming the ass-kicking role model for the boys and the perennial Hebrew dreamboat for the girls. If Tiger Beat existed in these days, David would just own the cover. Despite his closeness to Saul's family and his friendship with Jonathan, Saul's eldest son, tension boils in Saul's blood, fueled by jealousy and a Jehovah blackout. He soon exiles David and orders him hunted down and killed. Now David is on the run, forced to elude capture while figuring out what exactly his role is in the future of Israel.
Another redubbed foreign flick from way back when, Saul and David is a Biblical epic in all meanings of the term. It's packed with a humongous cast, it comes laden with big-deal set design and costuming, it sports a big battle or two, and its stars all wear eye makeup. It's also wicked long.
King David's life is one of the more potent of Old Testament biographies. Here's a guy who was a total stud, Israel's greatest king and a warrior of infinite bad-assitude. He would go on to screw up, of course, boinking Bath-sheba, arranging for her noble husband to be killed in battle, mixing up in a blood feud that would lead to the death of his hairy son Absalom, and periodically ignoring the words of the prophets and, by proxy, Jehovah Himself.
Saul and David, as the title suggests, focuses solely on the run-up to David's years as king. The film tells the story of both characters, giving equal weight to both Saul and David, focusing on the rise of latter and the utter fall of the former. Looked at this way, the film does well. The simmering conflict between the two is built nicely, with Saul's progress from slow burn to complete nervous breakdown believably crafted. Likewise is David's ascendancy, his relationship with Jonathan, and the hard choices he had to make to secure his place on the throne. If I had to choose, though, I'd say this is Saul's movie, because it begins with his selection as king and ends with -- Warning! Spoilers for lapsed Jews and Christians ahead! -- his death. Though the dubbing masks much of the acting gusto, Norman Wooland as Saul really works to sell his character's arc. His descent into nuttiness is well executed.
So what about the money scenes, you ask? Well, the face-off with Goliath is here, but since it goes by so fast and is finished within the first twenty minutes of the film, it seems more of an afterthought than the pivotal event in the Israelites' history that it was. Goliath talks trash, David walks up to him -- bypassing the smooth-stone-collecting scene -- and lets fly, nailing the Philistine in the sweet spot. After a surprisingly copious amount of blood flows, Goliath falls, dies, and game over. Unfortunately, this brief exercise in forehead violation is one of the few action sequences in the film, the last being the large, fairly impressive climactic battle.
This is what will probably deep-six the film for most people. At two hours, it's a long slog, especially for a forty-year-old dubbed character study. The length will likely deter the young folks, though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to them in any case because of some intense scenes (the death of Goliath, the raising of his severed head on a pike, the rampant slaughter in the final battle). I also don't see it being alluring to anyone much older, either. I found the film laborious, and this is one of my all-time favorite stories! But if you must have your Old Testament fix, the production values and acting are solid enough that you won't weep and gnash your teeth -- too much.
The non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is very shaky, and it's evident that it was taken from an old, old print. Colors are all over the place, and the video quality is quite dirty. The 2.0 mono track is ear-splitting in some areas. Trailers and a few character bios are it for extras.
Saul and David is large-scale Bibilical storytelling, but, brother, it is slooooooooowwww. A bummer considering that David's is one of the more exciting stories to be found in The Bible.
The accused is given a Holy spanking.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Actor and Bible Character Bios