Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So Lent begins tomorrow

At least it does, if you're one of those Christian denominations that takes Lent more than moderately seriously. The Fox Movie Channel has scheduled for the day by having a morning of religious-themed movies, including the Biblical mess David and Bathsheba, tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM ET.

I'll admit that I don't know the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba very well, so I don't know quite how faithful this movie adaptation is to the 3000-year-old story. Gregory Peck stars as David, the King of the Israelites, currently making war against some other tribe, with the help of his military commander Uriah (Kieron Moore). David can't always be at the front, and returns to Jerusalem to do the people's business, as well deal with his wife Michal (Jayne Meadows). She unfortunately is a harpie, constantly hen-pecking David for being born a shepherd, for constantly having an eye for other women, and all sorts of other things. (I guess wives have always been nags.) David, unsurprisingly, turns his attention to other things, most notably the woman he can see bathing when he looks down from his terrace. That woman is Bathsheba (Susan Heyward), and when he invites her to the palace for dinner, they immediately hit it off.

To say that David and Bathsheba hit it off is a bit of an understatement. They almost immediately begin a passionate love affair, even though Bathsheba tells David that she's also Mrs. Uriah. You know that things aren't going to end well from all this, and we get a foreshadowing of this in a scene in which David shows he's lost his mojo with the slingshot. (Viewers may recall that David smote Goliath, something which is shown near the end of the movie.) Things go from bad to worse when Bathsheba informs David that she's gotten knocked up, and that he has to be the father because she hasn't slept with Uriah in months, he being off fighting David's war. David calls Uriah back to Jerusalem and devises a devious plan to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba, and -- miracle of miracles -- the one time that Uriah has sex with Bathsheba will be the time that Bathseba gets pregnant. But Uriah is so filled with zeal that he doesn't go home to Bathsheba, which means that David will have to get Uriah killed so that he can marry Bathsheba and the child will be legitimate, having been conceived just in time.

It's at this point that things really go from worse to worst, with the Israelites suffering drought and, presumably, other plagues that don't get shown on screen. David suffers too, as the new kid dies. The prophet Nathan (Raymond Massey) leads a bunch of disgruntled Israelites who are going to force Bathsheba to stand trial for adultery, the penalty for which is stoning (with David being forced to cast the first stone), but David repents just in time and everything turns about reasonably well for the Israelites.

Or so the movie's story goes. As I said at the beginning, there are probably liberties taken here, but since I don't know the Biblical story, I can lok at this more as a straight-up movie. In that way, it's problematic. Every plot turn is just oh-so-convenient, to the point of being laughable. And if the plot turns are laughable, the dialog is even more so. You really have to feel for poor Gregory Peck having to spout these lines. Still, David and Bathsheba is at least entertaining enough for a laugh, and might even be better than that. It's gotten a DVD release too, so you don't have to get up at 6:00 AM to watch it.

No comments: