April 15, 2010

For the Love of Peter O'Toole: Drama Intro & The Bible

In the two previous entries in this series, I covered Peter O’Toole’s Oscar-nominated performances and his comedies. The next batch will feature everything else, loosely collected in the "drama" category. And without further ado…

Film: The Bible: In the Beginning... (John Huston, 1966)
Role: The Three Angels

The Bible is pretty much as its title claims: a filmic recreation of the Book of Genesis. And as you might expect from an adaptation of a sacred text, it's thorough. The first ten minutes of the film are word-for-word from the beginning of Genesis, the creation of the Earth and Sky depicted in dramatic documentary-style footage of volcanoes, clouds, mountains--all the majesty of nature. Then come the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the beasts of the earth; Adam and Eve, Noah, all that jazz.

O'Toole plays the three angels who come to Abraham to tell his wife Sarah she will give birth to a son, even though they're both, like, a hundred. In an awesome bit of casting, Abraham and Sarah are played by firebrands George C. Scott and Ava Gardner. Scott fell madly in love with Gardner during shooting which would have been fine, I guess, had he not already been mad to begin with. They had one of those tempestuous Old Hollywood love affairs filled with booze and sex and violence--all while playing the founding mother and father of Christianity (not even taking into consideration Abraham's significance to Judaism and Islam). Gotta love it.

In another scene, O'Toole's angels are also the ones to guide Lot into Sodom to search for godly men. That doesn't go so well. The scene is pretty cool, however, as Sodom is portrayed as a stinking hellhole, all shadows and sensuality, its denizens dressed up in gaudy makeup that's a cross between Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra and Ziggy Stardust. O'Toole doesn't stand for this though and uses his super angelic baby blues to part the writhing hoard so he and Lot can escape.
Boom! Nobody's sleeping with these virgins now, bitches.

As much fun as I'm poking at this film now, it's actually pretty descent. It is rather slow but what Biblical epic isn't? Huston's assured hand and lavish photography reminds us that Old Testament stories are actually kind of cool and fraught with all too-human frailties. In essence, they're great drama.


  1. No mention of Troy at all? I thought he totally stole the show in that film, especially in his scene with Achilles in the tent where he begs for Hector's body.

  2. I mentioned in the latter part of the entry, I haven't seen Troy yet. But everyone tells me O'Toole steals the scene he's in (and maybe even the whole movie). Not surprising as he's up against who, Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom? The cast was kind of the reason I didn't see it in the first place, lol. But I'll give it a rent to complete the filmography now.

  3. Troy, IMO, is actually an excellent film, especially the director's cut, which lasts around 30 minutes longer. If nothing else, it has a vibe similar to The Last Emperor, where the sight and sound are just so damn breathtaking that it takes a bit of precedence over the characters and the story. In other words, it's one of the most visually breathtaking historical epics I've ever seen. Costumes, cinematography, sets, music, etc. are all just simply incredible. I found the film to also have a great story, but I'm a huge nerd for historical epics and Greek mythology (The Iliad is one of my top five favorite pieces of literature ever) so it was right up my alley.

    As far as the cast goes, I would say it's a great ensemble cast. Bloom is actually perfect for the role of Paris, as you get the sense the whole time that he's honestly just a pretty boy who is really just a ladies man, but when it comes to battle, he's a pathetic loser who can barely swing a sword. Pitt play Achilles very well, portraying the rage and arrogance of the character perfectly, but there are moments where one gets the sense they cast Achilles a little too old or too star-powered. Brian Cox is perfectly devilish and slimy as Agamemnon, and Brendan Gleeson is great as always as Menalaus.

    But really, the show belongs to Peter O Toole as Priam, Eric Bana as Hector, and Sean Bean as Odysseus. The three of them just inhabit their roles so perfectly and effortlessly. Like I said before, the scene in Achilles' tent between Priam and Achilles is like a master class in acting from Peter O Toole.

  4. Cool! Now I'm kind of excited to see it :)