Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sinuhe egyptiläinen

If you've already got copies of everything that TCM is running tonight, you could switch over to the Fox Movie Channel and catch The Egyptian at 3:30 AM. Or, this being FMC, you could wait for the repeat, which is going to be tomorrow afternoon at 12:35 PM.

Edmund Purdom plays Sinuhe, the title character in the original novel by Finnish writer Mika Waltari; the "Sinuhe" was removed from the title when translated to English. Sinuhe is, at the beginning of the movie, writing his memoirs at the end of his life sometime around 1350 BC, where he's in exile somewhere near the shores of the Red Sea. Flash back to the early part of his life....

Sinuhe was abandanoned by his birth parents, being sent down the Nile on a reed boat ostensibly to die, but being discovered by foster parents who raised him. Sinuhe's foster father was a physician, such as they were in the ancient world, but regardless of the quality of doctors back then Sinuhe follows in Dad's footsteps and becomes a doctor himself. One day, together with his friend Horemheb (Victor Mature), who wants to be in the military, he goes hunting for lions but instead saves the life of a man attacked by a lion. Horemheb and Sinuhe are arrested because hunting lions is only for royals, but what is only discovered later is that the man they saved was the new Pharaoh, Akhenaton (Michael Wilding). Sinuhe become the Royal Physician, while Horemheb gets a plum posting in the army.

This gets Sinuhe into the ancient Egyptian version of the smart set, which is where he meets Nefer (Bella Darvi), who seems to be ancient Egypt's equivalent of a socialite who's famous for being famous, or something. Sinuhe falls for her, hard, even though he'd be much better off with tavern owner Merit (Jean Simmons). Merit loves him, but he doesn't return the favor, instead sacrificing all his worldly good for Nefer, eventually being forced to go into his first exile as a result. In this first exile, Sinuhe meets the Hittites, who have developed a new metal that's tougher than any of the metals they have in Egypt, and which the Hittites are turning into swords with which they're going to conquer the known world! Sinuhe has to warn his people.

So he goes back to Egypt, only to discover that the place has changed. Akhenaton, despite being Pharaoh, is also somewhat of an apostate, at least in that he only believes in one god, as opposed to the plethora of gods that made up Egyptian theology. The military doesn't like this, and they plan to stage a palace coup with the help of Akhenaton's sister Baketamon (Gene Tierney). However, in the meantime, there is a portion of the regular population that has taken up Akhenaton's monotheism, and the military is going to have to deal with them, too. And this includes Merit -- that's also not her only secret....

Sinuhe has the chance to take part in the palace coup by poisoning Akhenaton, who for his part is perfectly ready to die. And, in fact, we know that whatever action Sinuhe takes, it's going to lead to his eventual exile, since that's where he was at the start of the movie. But since we're getting close to the climax of the movie, I'll spare the plot details so as not to give everything away.

The Egyptian isn't the world's greatest movie, but it's not terrible either. There are nice sets and nice cinematography, although it's too bad Fox couldn't come up with more location shooting, at least for establishing shots. The ancient Egyptian monuments would probably look good in Cinemascope. The plot is meandering and a bit of a mess at times. For example, I don't see exactly what Sinuhe sees in Nefer, and the palace coup section goes on a bit too long. As for the acting, everybody is ostensibly playing ancient Egyptians although they could just as easily be playing archetypes, as the story could almost be set in Rome or possibly Henry VIII's England or any of a number of other places and times. Nobody is terrible -- not even Bella Darvi -- but nobody particularly shines, either. All in all, The Egyptian is certainly worth a viewing. It's no worse than most of the other ancient epics that Hollywood was making in the mid-1950s.

Amazon suggests that The Egyptian has been released to DVD, but it's either imports or out-of-print stuff.

No comments: