In his memoir An Open Book, John Huston elucidates on the making of The Bible and most fondly about the animals used during the spectacular dud’s only good if not nearly triumphant chapter—Noah and the Ark. While Huston wanted Charlie Chaplin to play Noah, and then Alec Guinness, he came to realize only someone affectionately familiar with the animals, on petting and feeding terms, would do, so he chose himself. (No surprise, he’s also the voice of God; the mugging audience-pleasing, I much prefer his 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. No 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 exile mind-boggles us about his future biological reproduction prospects; the Sodom & Gomorrah segment is Max Factor gone gay camp saturnalia at which fems outnumber the butches; the Tower of Babel sequence visually a knockout but halted too suddenly and chaotically to have intended impact; the Abraham & Sarah episode 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 writes that he doesn’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 pedagogic myth; as moviemaker he’s done in by 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.