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, these
actions and words are placed in the service of a broader plot that involves
expanded roles for four supporting characters in the gospels: the Roman
centurion present at the cross, Barabbas, Judas the disciple, and Mary, the
mother of Jesus.
Bronton's film was the first commercially produced film in the United States
to tell the Jesus story in the harmonizing tradition, with the camera
focused 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 First
Hundered Years by W. Barnes Tatum; 1997; Polebridge