For this film, producer Samuel Bronston assembled an impressive production crew in 1961.Spain became the site of production because the Bronston had built enormous studios in Madrid. Although the King of Kings incorporates many familiar stories and sayings from all four gospels into its Jesus story, theseactions and words are placed in the service of a broader plot that involvesexpanded roles for four supporting characters in the gospels: the Romancenturion present at the cross, Barabbas, Judas the disciple, and Mary, themother of Jesus.Bronton's film was the first commercially produced film in the United Statesto tell the Jesus story in the harmonizing tradition, with the camerafocused throughout on the Jesus character.The critical response to Kings of Kings by the secular and the religious press was devastating. Critics during the 1950's had obviously developed not only immunity from, but hostility toward, Hollywood extravaganzas with biblical subject matter. King of Kings bore the brunt of this hostility and ultimately became a box office failure, grossing less than its eight million dollar cost. In spite of the harsh criticism of the film, there often appeared in secular as well as religious reviews great appreciation for the persona of the Jesus character as projected by Jeffrey Hunter.This excerpt was taken from Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the FirstHundered Years by W. Barnes Tatum; 1997; PolebridgePress.
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