• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Friday, September 29, 2006

    Samson and Delilah (1984) (TV)

    After one of my more studious posts yesterday, I thought it was probably time to lighten things up. Having written about the two most well known Samson films in the last few weeks (the 1996 version, and the 1949 version), and listed all the Samson films I'm aware of, I thought I would briefly post a few comments on what is probably the next most watched version (at least by today's audiences).

    One strange fact about this film is that it forms a link between those two films other than the shared title and subject matter. Victor Mature, who played Samson in DeMille's 1949 version makes a cameo in the film, and it also stars Max von Sydow who would go on to narrate the 1996 version (albeit uncredited).

    As the DVD cover above might suggest, this is a particularly lame version of the story. It's primary purpose could even be to show as much of Samson and Delilah's flesh as possible. Whilst there are decent supporting performances from von Sydow and Jose Ferrer the rest of it is pretty terrible. How Antony Hamilton (who played Samson) ever got close to getting the role of James Bond is a total mystery (thankfully, he was pipped by Timothy Dalton). Hamilton isn't helped by Samson's legendary "long hair" being reduced to a wonderful 80's mullet. Actually the mullet (which perhaps should have also received a billing) does raise a few theological points regarding the film. Firstly, most people probably don't realise that the nazarite vow was actually to keep it short on the top and the sides and just leave the back uncut. That must have been something they discovered amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls or something ;-) Secondly, when Delilah finally, and thankfully, applies the scissors, she simply does what any
    self-respecting woman would do given half the chance, and gives him a short back and sides. For what it's worth, none of these three films show Samson with a shaved head, which seems fairly strange.

    Another strange choice, present in all three films but that seems to run against the bible is the design of Dagon's temple. In all three films these are open roofed, meaning no matter how much Samson pushes, it is hard to see how he could really claim quite so many lives. That said presumably this choice owes either something to Archaeological finds which suggests that roofs on this scale had not yet been developed, or it is an example of the DeMille film's pervassiveness that the other two films copy these details, possible without even realising.

    Another unusual choice which, in this case, is particular to this film is that Samson is never shown lying to Delilah about the secret of his strength, so she just catches him first time. In some ways this seems a more plausible scenario. How stupid would you have to be to actually tell your secret to someone who has already tried, three time, to zap you of your strength and hand you over to your enemies? That said, Samson does come across as the least wise character in the bible (which is up against some pretty significant competition) so it's perhaps not too surprising.

    So, all in all, this is not one to rush out to get hold of. There are numerous other Samson films which I have not seen but which are available from Amazon. Feel free to post any comments you have on any of them on the "Films About Samson" post.



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