Barabbas

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STEP ASIDE, GLADIATOR!

Jun 25, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Some of the best Gladiator footage in films, Anthony Quinn super

Cons:A little long

Barabbas (1962)

Produced by Dino DeLaurentiis and directed by Richard Fleischer, "Barabbas" gave Anthony Quinn perhaps his best vehicle.

Barabbas tells the story of the insurrectionist who was set free at the time of the festival in accordance with the Jewish tradition that one condemned man be freed. Not so lucky was the son of the carpenter, Jesus, who went on to his execution on the hill outside Jerusalem.

Barabbas tells the tale of Christ from Barabbas' viewpoint, at first merely showing his reaction to some unknown person being executed and feeling happy it was not he up there on the cross.

Barabbas returns to his evil ways, briefly visiting his former tavern and trying to take up with his former lover Rachel (Silvia Mangano), however, she has changed. She believes in Jesus Christ. He shrugs her off as crazy, but when she is stoned to death for testifying that Jesus is raised from the dead, Barabbas returns to his life of crime with a vengeance. He finds his old gang wondering if he has gone soft. One says, "things are going to be different…" - at that very word Barabbas stabs him, and then another malcontent. The rest of the gang eagerly accepts his leadership once again.

Barabbas' gang attacks a caravan and stabs nearly everybody to death. A priest who presided over the stoning of Rachel runs away, Barabbas in hot pursuit with his dripping knife. Roman guards on patrol surround him and bring him back to Pontius Pilate, the man who released him in place of Christ…

Pilate, well played by old pro Arthur Kennedy, sentences Barabbas to the Sicilian sulphur mines. Barabbas is baffled that he is not executed and keeps remembering the execution of Jesus. He is continually wondering about his purpose in life.

From that point, the movie follows Barabbas through a living hell in the dark, dirty mines where he learns more about Christianity from fellow prisoner Vittorio Gassman. When the mine caves in Barabbas is saved again, and sent to gladiator school. He is continually haunted by the memory of Jesus but doesn't know what to do. As events unfold, he finds that his experience at stabbing comes in very handy in the arena. Some of the finest gladiator footage in movies appear in Barabbas. Jack Palance plays Barabbas chief antagonist. Watch how Barabbas deals with him!

By the end of the movie Barabbas is finally aware of what his purpose in life is. I'll leave you with that so you can see for yourself when you watch Barabbas.

The cinematography is beautiful, with the director using the screen almost as an artist uses a canvas.

The acting is uniformly great, with Anthony Quinn a standout as Barabbas.

The incidental music also highlights the action and is well done.

The only defect is in the editing. At 144 minutes, the film could have easily been pared by 20 or 30 minutes and become a better movie. Nonetheless, this epic film is well worth viewing. Barabbas is a part of my personal video collection. Four Stars.



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