In An Open Book, John Huston elucidated on the making of The Bible and most fondly about the animals used during the epic’s only good if not nearly triumphant sequence—Noah and the Ark. His pages bring back the beauty and the challenge of creating a mini-masterpiece within a dud spectacular. While Huston wanted Charlie Chaplin to play Noah, and then Alec Guinness, he came to realize that only someone affectionately familiar with the animals, on petting and feeding terms, would do, so he chose himself. He’s also the voice of God. Audience-pleasing his mugging is, though I much prefer his similar kind of wink in The Cardinal. No one who sees this movie on the big screen will forget the animals-by-two departure from the Ark to a water-soaked paradise—the most primordial moments witnessed in a Huston picture. Not such luck elsewhere: The Adam & Eve portion is not only enough to set feminists’ hair on fire but also evidence that God censors the full Monty even at conception; the Cain & Abel sequence mind-bogglingly lacking of biological reproductive sense; the Sodom & Gomorrah segment is Max Factor gone gay camp saturnalia in which fems outnumber the butches; the Tower of Babel sequence visually a knockout but halted too quickly to have intended impact; and the Abraham & Sarah chapter sedated barbaric soap with a climax that may still anger those who see sadism being used to prove allegiance. (Sadism off the set too: Hot head George C. Scott, who played Abraham, was having an affair with hothead Ava Gardner, who played Sarah, and in a drunken rage he slugged her.) Huston wrote that he didn’t “profess any beliefs in an orthodox sense...the mystery of life is too great, too wide, too deep, to do more than wonder at. Anything further would be an impertinence.” As an artist he gives respect to material conceived as myth and legend; as moviemaker he’s done in by its inherent irrationality. Released in America at 175 minutes; in Germany at 216 minutes, making us wonder what we missed. Oscar-nominated for best original musical score (Toshiro Mayuzumi). Filmed in Dimension 150, a glorified TODD AO. (Opened 12/23/1966 at the Michael Todd, running 42 weeks.)
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Text COPYRIGHT © 2001 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.