CAST A GIANT SHADOW(director/writer: Melville Shavelson; screenwriter: from the book by Ted Berkman; cinematographer: Aldo Tonti; editors: Bert Bates/Gene Ruggiero; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Kirk Douglas (Col. David ‘Mickey’ Marcus), Senta Berger (Magda Simon), Angie Dickinson (Emma Marcus), James Donald (Maj. Safir), Stathis Giallelis (Ram Oren), Luther Adler (Jacob Zion), Topol (Abou Ibn Kader), John Wayne (Gen. Mike Randolph), Yul Brynner (Asher Gonen), Frank Sinatra (Vince Talmadge); Runtime: 142; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Wayne/Melville Shavelson; MGM/UA Home Entertainment Inc.; 1966-in English and Hebrew-with some English subtitles)
“The results add up to a superficial biopic that casts anything but a giant shadow.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
In real-life Colonel David (Mickey) Marcus, a West Point grad, World War II hero and a New York-born lawyer-soldier who is no longer with the U.S. army, is recruited because of his Jewish roots to help in the founding of Israel. His heroic deeds helped in the war for the independence of Israel. The all-star cast (even John Wayne, whose Batjac production company funded the film, has a brief cameo as an American general) fails to bring this overlong, muddled, tedious, and clichéd fictionalized romantic biopic to life. It follows along the same course as Exodus, a recent film also promoting the founding of Israel, but is even more unfulfilling. It’s directed and written by Melville Shavelson, in an aridly competent way but without distinction, and is based on the book by Ted Berkman. The film was shot in Israel and Rome. Though some scenes were well-staged, it was beautifully shot by Aldo Tonti, and it at times gives an inkling of what that war was like, it overall never seemed like an honest effort and unfortunately makes this genuine hero seem like his deeds were contrived when by all accounts he was the real deal.
Though Marcus (Kirk Douglas), who was made commander of the Israeli forces just before the war begins, is in the middle of battle in Jerusalem, the film shoots for too much melodrama as the complex Colonel seems more concerned over whether to choose his tender loving wife Emma (Angie Dickinson) or his sultry single woman lover in Israel Magda Simon (Senta Berger) for the future than with the ongoing battle with the Arabs.
Unfortunately, the results add up to a superficial biopic that casts anything but a giant shadow. Besides being historically inaccurate and lethargically acted, it seemed to ring too many false notes (not helped by the many celebrity cameos, that only made things look unnecessarily silly).
REVIEWED ON 10/19/2005 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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