The Underrated ‘King of Kings’ (1961)

Nicholas Ray’s retelling of the life of Jesus Christ in producer Samuel Bronston’s epic “King of Kings” is nowhere near as appreciated as it deserves.  This might be due mainly to Jeffrey Hunter being cast as Christ. On its face, casting a lightweight as God just feels… wrong.

To be honest, it actually is a little wrong. Not only are Hunter’s eyes left noticeably blue, but he lacks the presence you expect from Christ. Moreover, he lacks the ability to convey an unspoken inner-life that separates television acting from film acting.  

There are moments, though, when Hunter does deliver.  His moments with John the Baptist (Robert Ryan) and the Sermon on the Mount are incredibly moving.

Myself, I consider the film a near-classic. The production is absolutely spectacular to look at, Miklos Rozsa’s score is a hands-down masterpiece, and I love how the script creates most-fictionalized but plausible back stories for Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, Judas, and Herod Antipas.

As the Roman soldier who famously comes to believe at the crucifixion, a terrific Ron Randell anchors the film as much as Hunter.

On Bluray “King of Kings” looks amazing.

Via my pals at, Cecil B. Demille’s silent 1927 “King of Kings” arrived today.  DeMille’s early Biblical epics are enormously entertaining and reverent. Hopefully, this will be no different.


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