(aka 'Barabba')

Directed by Richard Fleischer
Italy 19
61

 

Whatever happened to Barabbas, the condemned thief who, the Bible says, was spared from crucifixion by Pontius Pilate when he might have spared Jesus Christ? That unresolved question is answered — suppositionally, at least — in a huge, turgid color film, "Barabbas," which came, appropriately, to the DeMille last night.

Here is what happened to him, according to this account: He spent a long life in dismal slavery—and he still ended up on a cross.

During his years of cruel enslavement in a Sicilian sulphur mine, as a farm hand for a Roman consul and as a third-string gladiator in Rome, he was endlessly puzzled and troubled about the man who died in his stead. He kept trying to grasp the strange religion of the secret followers of that man. But somehow he couldn't get it. That "love-thy-brother" principle was too deep for him. And he still hadn't figured it out fully when he was crucified for having helped to set fire to Rome.

This may sound like a strange and slender fiction on which to base a three-hour film—and that it is, beyond any question, when you see how it all comes out. For what there is of simple beauty and possible symbolic point in "Pär Lagerkvist's haunting fable, upon which the film is based, either has been missed or is undeveloped in the uncertain script of Christopher Fry, and the spiritual subtlety of it has been buried under 10 tons of spectacle.

Now the man Barabbas, as played by Anthony Quinn, is but a great brute of a fellow who falls into and endures a succession of melodramatic adventures that are the raptures of a spectaclemaker's dreams. When he is captured in a fight with Roman soldiers (this is after he has seen Christ crucified, the evidence of the Resurrection and a girl stoned to death for worshiping Him), he is put in the mine, where the labor is long and torturing. Barabbas endures this ordeal with spectacular agony.

Excerpt from Bosley Crowther's review at The NY Times located HERE.

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 23rd, 1961

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DVD Review: Sony Pictures (with CD Sampler) - Region 1,3,4 - NTSC

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Distribution Sony Pictures - Region 1,3,4 - NTSC
Runtime 2:17:25 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.63 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• trailer (4:27) 

DVD Release Date: March 4th, 200
8
Keep Case
Chapters: 32

 

Comments:

This is the exact same transfer of the film from 2002 but Sony have strangely added a bonus CD featuring some Christian music artists (perhaps you are supposed to listen to it during the stoning sequence or during the lions and carnage of the Coliseum). It has the Jan 3rd, 2002 VOB files and although the DVD is dual-layered and anamorphic it is still interlaced (see combing example below). Essentially it is only for CRT viewing there is also some speckles and light damage marks.  The time indicates that it is the Turner broadcast version although I believe there is a longer cut somewhere (as mentioned in the review above). The disc is coded for regions 1, 3 and 4 in the NTSC standard. The 2.0 channel English audio has lots of, sometimes awkward, post dubbing but is acceptably clear and there are some subtitle options in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese making it compatible to sell in South America as well.  

There are no extras save a very long, 4:3 letterboxed trailer.  The film is a decent 'sword and sandal with religious overtones' type entry. Quinn is fairly competent with the narrative's adventurous structure and there are some grandiose set and extras' moments. Kind of a lesser Spartacus but enjoyable enough if you are in the mood. Fleischer includes some well-crafted and genuinely stirring scenes. We can't really complain for the price of less than $10 although I was hoping that it would have, at the least, been upgraded to a progressive transfer. Your guess is as good as mine as to the reasoning behind the inclusion of the CD (anyone smell nepotism?).  

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Distribution Sony Pictures - Region 1,3,4 - NTSC




 

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