Samson and Delilah (1949) (Blu-ray)

Samson (1949)

[Note: Portions of this review appeared in an earlier DVD review of the film.]

 

Less than a year after delivering Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah on DVD with an impressive DVD transfer, Paramount has stepped up their game with a Blu-ray, featuring a restoration scanned in 4K, restoring its Technicolor brilliance and an English Dolby TrueHD Mono soundtrack.

Overdone, gaudy, and deliciously entertaining, Samson and Delilah is the kind of epic Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) thrived on. Nobody did sword and sandal epics better than he did, and in terms of entertainment value, Samson and Delilah is one of his best. Apparently, moviegoers in 1949 agreed, as the film grossed a then astonishing $12 million at the box office, making it the biggest hit Paramount Pictures had ever had up to that time.

Based on three chapters from the Book of Judges, the Hebrews have been enslaved the last forty years by the Philistines. The film opens with DeMille’s voice setting the scene. Strongman Samson (Victor Mature), the Danite son of Manoah, has rejected the love of Miriam (Olive Deering), a sweet, innocent girl from his tribe. Instead, he plans to marry blonde Philistine warrior Semadar (Angela Lansbury, looking surprisingly sexy). On their wedding night, Samson makes a foolish bet involving a riddle that encourages another Semadar suitor Ahtur (Henry Wilcoxon), to team up with Semadar’s sister Delilah (a wonderfully overdone and over the top Hedy Lamarr) to trick Semadar into revealing the answer to the riddle. When Samson finds out about Semadar’s betrayal, he takes off to settle the bet, only to discover that Semadar has just married Ahtur. In the ensuing mêlée, Semadar ends up dead, and Samson spurns Delilah’s attempts to become his betrothed. Samson goes on the lam, as Delilah vows her revenge…

Shot in glorious Technicolor, and featuring spectacular sets and costumes, Samson and Delilah is the kind of overblown, extravagant epic critics regularly derided DeMille for creating, while at the same time begrudgingly acknowledging his ability to create compulsively entertaining product. Personally, I’ve always loved DeMille’s work; it seems like he had a great time making movies. Samson and Delilah is highly enjoyable, bordering on campy. Victor Mature’s grand theatrical gestures, or Heddy Lamarr flicking a plum pit to get a man’s attention, are just a couple examples of the sheer ridiculousness of it all. It’s like a comic book come to life!

Presented in the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the new 4K restoration is excellent. The vibrant Technicolor—reds, blues, yellows, etc. absolutely pops throughout the presentation. Faces look lifelike. The image looks stunning, free of age related artifacts. Fine detail is so good; it’s possible to see the smallest elements of the many costumes. Samson and Delilah has never looked better.

English Dolby TrueHD Mono soundtrack offers a minimalist yet true to the source presentation. Largely focused on providing clean and clear dialogue front and center, other audio elements including the score by Victor Young, is a bit limited. Music and sound effects are simply presented in the middle of things, rather than creating an immersive quality. It’s exactly what you would expect from a soundtrack like this.

English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:02)
  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras