Solomon and Sheba King Vidor

Solomon and Sheba King Vidor
There’s an early scene in Solomon and Sheba where Gina Lollobrigida whips somebody in the face. Sometime later, there’s a cheesy "pagan” ceremony where she wears a shiny bustier amidst cavorting half-clad extras. That about covers it for thrilling moments. Otherwise, this is the tale of wise Hebrew king Solomon (Yul Brynner) romanced by the scheming Queen of Sheba (Lollobrigida) and it’s dull as drying paint. The script reads as the sort of Bible story you could sell in pulp editions by Mickey Spillane: Sheba wants to seduce the great Solomon to weaken his monotheistic resolve and make the Jews vulnerable to their enemies, but square-jawed manliness eventually turns her around to the worship of patriarchy, I mean, Yahweh. Intrigue rears its ugly head in the form of Adinonjeh (George Sanders), the brother who wants Solomon’s throne for himself, but all eyes are mostly on the gyrations of Sheba and the impossibly immobile Hebrew king. Though this suggests good, lurid fun, it’s a ’50s biblical epic, which means people speak without contractions and in great, stolid tones. Par for the course is the thrown together star cast with no chemistry (and who could believe that Sanders could ever be related to Brynner?). Without Lollobrigida and her hilariously provocative outfits, this would have nothing to recommend it to anyone other than sadly cloistered seminary students. That it came from King Vidor, who directed the successfully sordid Duel in the Sun, makes the mediocrity all the more tragic. That the intermittently great director ended his feature career on this blah note is a big disappointment to those who remember his glory days. (MGM)