Sony // 1976 // 191 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 25th, 2009
From shepherd to King of Israel in 191 grueling minutes.
The story of David is an epic tale of war, deception, friendship, betrayal, adventure, and erotica. This 1976 biopic manages to distill all of that awesomeness into three hours of Holy Tedium.
The feature is chopped up into two parts, each running 90 minutes. Part 1 deals with David's rise from lyre-playing shepherd boy to giant slayer to throne usurper. The focus is on David's tumultuous relationship with Saul -- i.e. Saul repeatedly tries to kill him. Eventually, David takes over as King of Israel, which leads into Part 2: David Takes Over as King of Israel. Instead of firing stones into the foreheads of tall Philistine freaks, he has to manage the kingdom, appease the tribes, move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, deal with his rebellious, hairy son, and pork the neighbor's wife. All this -- and Brian Blessed!
David is one of the most badass characters in the Bible and his life was rich with drama. Someone apparently forgot to tell the producers of this plodding, talky, endless production. It's pretty much like the import Old Testament epics of the '60s and '70s, just a lot longer and filled with way more missed opportunities. So many cool David moments get short-changed:
David vs. the Bear
This formative moment -- when David the shepherd boy smokes a bear trying to eat his sheep -- is referred to by David, when he asks for the chance to take on Goliath, but we're robbed of witnessing the smackdown. I guess the budget wasn't roomy enough for a circus bear.
David vs. Goliath
One of the greatest fights in human history is reduced to this: a guy who's maybe 6'4" with a fake beard throws a spear into the dirt and gets hit in the face with a rock. The end.
David vs. the Philistines
So much opportunity for wanton slaughter and sword and sandal mortal combat, all flushed. The Bible clearly depicts the Israelite and Philistine armies flanking the valley where Goliath and David throw down, but with a cast of dozens of extras there's no chance at creating big armies. The result is a laughably barren battlefield.
David vs. Absalom
Another possibility for major action and conflict, but David and his son's epic fallout is, like everything else in this movie, reduced to talking.
Look, this sucker is boring. The dialogue is unending and not very compelling, and the major events in David's life are rendered with disappointing limpness. I don't know, maybe it'll do if you're desperate for a visual interpretation of one of the most famous characters in the Bible, but this sucker will put anyone with a moderate-to-low attention span into a coma.
The full frame video quality isn't great. Part 2 is noticeably better than Part 1, which has some serious transfer issues. The 2.0 stereo mix is shallow, but Brian Blessed's gut laugh might push your LFE ever so slightly. There are no extras.
I don't recall the word "lethargy" tossed around much in 2 Samuel.
I anoint thee...Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 191 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated PG