The Return of The Egyptian (1954)

August 9, 2011 | By

A cautionary note: Edmund Purdom never experiences this moment in THE EGYPTIAN with miniature Egyptian queens, Babylonian whores, and lower caste barmaids.

Perhaps due to its long periods of unavailability, The Egyptian [M] (1954) has developed cult following among connoisseurs of ancient / Biblical epics, fans of composers Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman, and cineastes with a taste for big budget productions starring iconic silver screen stars Victor Mature, Jean Simmons, and Gene Tierney.

It’s also the film Marlon Brando walked away from because he had issues with the script, its director, and supporting actress Bella Darvi; Bella Darvi herself, a shapely concoction written off by period critics as an incompetent if not wooden, cross-eyed actress, and sometime lover of Fox CEO / Egyptian’s producer Darryl F. Zanuck; and co-star Edmund Purdom, who never clicked with audiences, and disappeared in a series of European genre outings for a few decades.

Twilight Time’s DVD and Blu-ray not only brings this curiosity back from oblivion, but allows fan and the curious to make up their own minds whether The Egyptian was ahead of its time, or deserved to flop at the box office, and be superseded by the studio’s bigger CinemaScope successes – The Robe (1953), and Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).

Not unlike the film’s theatrical history, its terms on home video were brief and not reflective of its $4 million budget. Neither VHS, laserdisc nor Region 2 DVDs presented faithful transfers of Leon Shamroy’s innovative cinematography, nor the original surround sound mix the way Zanuck had intended. The image tended to look a bit yellowy, and the very notion of panning & scanning a 2.55:1 ration for full frame VHS is just plain daft.

I’ve uploaded a lengthy review of Twilight Time’s BR, its extras, and the film’s virtues and flaws, plus coverage of the Spanish R2 DVD of Desirée [M] (1954) – the film Brando made in place of (or as punishment for bailing out of) The Egyptian.

Meet Edmund… and Bella!

Both reviews are loaded with helpful links, and in an upcoming related series, I’ll examine the works of the film’s two ‘Whatever happened to?’ icons – Bella Darvi, whose career withered away during the sixties; and Edmund Purdom, who seemed content staring in a mélange of horror, spaghetti westerns, thrillers, and period dramas over the next 30 years.

That is all.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Category: Uncategorized

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