The King of Kings (1927)

king of kings poster 1927 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great visuals considering the time and level of difficulty


Movie Info

Movie Name: The King of Kings

Studio: DeMille Pictures Corporation

Genre(s): Drama/Silent/Criterion

Release Date(s): April 19, 1927

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

king of kings resurrection of lazarus hb warner kenneth thomson jesus

Jesus…I was nice and dead and enjoying the afterlife. Thanks…thanks a lot

Stories of a man named Jesus (H.B. Warner) begin circulating around Jerusalem.  The man called Jesus has been said to heal the people, raise the dead, and has performed a host of miracles…but this “king” is seen as a threat to the Roman people.  Within Jesus’s disciples, Judas (Joseph Schildkraut) is also having questions about the man being called King of Jews and believes him to be a false prophet.  Turning to Caiaphas (Rudolph Schildkraut), Judas is about to commit the ultimate act of betrayal and the world will never be the same.

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, The King of Kings is a Biblical drama.  The silent picture features an early color sequence in the beginning of the film and at the end and it was the first film showed at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #266).

The King of Kings is what it is.  It is a telling of the Bible and therefore, most people kind of know how it is going to play out and develop.  What was impressive about The King of Kings was the size and scope of the film…and techniques they used to shoot it that seem to be before their time.

king of kings the last supper cast

Hey Judas, I saw you drop that bread…you just dropped me.

The story is relatively accurate to the Biblical text and often uses scripture as the onscreen text to tell the story.  Silent films are often long because of the “read” factor that requires the text to be on the screen long enough for the audience to read it which just adds to their runtime.  The King of King has a lot of story to cover (the Easter story is primarily what is covered) and as a result the film is rather long…and since it houses no surprises, it takes a bit to sit through.

The other question that of course becomes an issue with shooting a Biblical piece is the casting.  H.B. Warner seems really old for Jesus (he was about fifty at the time) and also typical at the time…and still often typical, he’s very, very white for a Middle Eastern man.  Both he and Dorothy Cummings who played Mary (and was younger than Warner) were sworn to keep ethical and essentially “pious” for the role to avoid any controversy.  Jacqueline Logan plays Mary Magdalene and isn’t portrayed as a prostitute so much as a woman who enjoys partying.  Joseph Schildkraut gets to play the brooding Judas and his father Rudolph Schildkraut overacts his role as Caiaphas.  The young Micky Moore plays the disciple Mark and went on to be second-unit director on films like the Indiana Jones series before he died in 2013.  The movie also features a small cameo by philosopher-author Ayn Rand as an extra.

king of kings crucifixion hb warner

Little known fact Arnold Schwarzenegger took his “I’ll be back” line from this movie

What is very impressive about the film is the visuals.  The color at the beginning and end of the film feels gimmicky and just experimental, but the lighting and set design for the picture throughout is very impressive.  The framing and style of the movie feels big and bold and the scenes like the Crucifixion do carry power by tapping into classic iconography.  The massive sets used for the Temple of Jerusalem were used in King Kong and later burned for Gone with the Wind.

The King of Kings is a classic and the scope of the film does earn it reverence.  The movie is considered the second of DeMille’s Biblical trilogy with The Ten Commandments in 1923 and The Sign of the Cross in 1932.  With nice copies and attempt to preserve films like this, it is amazing to think about when this was completely and the work that went into it.  It takes time, but sit back and enjoy The King of King.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response