Christians aren’t making epics like Samson and Delilah (1949) these days, or rather Hollywood doesn’t seem to be doing it. We have the Chronicles of Narnia Series, the Left Behind nonsense with former sitcom stars, and then low budget dramas or family heart warmers. I realize budgets are the reason the new Christian film producers aren’t going to come out with Biblical epics, but I hope they work up to it. It’s time to dispense with personal, introspective movies about how God affects “me” and tell a good ol’ fashioned story.
Freethunkers should throw a Cecil B. DeMille party around the holiday season and enjoy it with some spiked eggnog. I love watching The Ten Commandments and other supposedly faith-based movies from the director of the cast of thousands because he created campy soap operas with famous stars which lost all of the grit of the original myths. I just watched Samson and Delilah and it was entertaining as all hell. I do recommend that you review the Biblical story first so you can say “WTF” as the plotline is rearranged and skips elements of the original Heruculean style tale of a man with long hair and the strength of ten Schwarzeneggers.
But what was this movie really about–sex! I’m sure Cecil B. DeMille was a Christian, but there’s no other way to put it. Look at the damn movie poster! All throughout the picture Hedy Lamarr shows as much skin as was allowed at the time–which I believe means no belly buttons, but there was a lot of leg and midriff and form-fitting outfits. Hedy Lamarr is a stunning, if not Americanized version of Delilah and she uses every thing she has to make the screen steam with lust and unquenchable desire. If she can’t have Samson, no one will!
Victor Mature as Samson, looks like a 1940’s version of Sylvester Stallone with his mullet (since Christians were afraid of long hair) and sleepy eyelids. I have to admit, I avoided watching this film for a long time because I felt he was out of place in a Biblical epic, as much as Vincent Price in Ten Commandments, but he worked out well. Maybe not in the way he meant to, which was to be a fine actor in a period piece, but oh well. This film is not about fine acting, it’s the essence of every romance novel book cover ever displayed.
Some viewers, maybe even young viewers, may have a hard time watching Samson kill a lion for no apparent reason then to show off his strength. Rest assured, it was a tame, toothless one. You can tell because when Victor Mature starts to wrestle with him he loses some height and his hair looks funny (or funnier than usual). Wiki says that Cecil B. DeMille didn’t like Victor Mature for the role. He wanted Steve Reeves (who of course went on to do a string of Hercules movies). The famous director was furious that Victor refused to actually wrestle the trained lion himself, which is why you will see shots intertwined of a stunt double then Victor close-up smacking around a stuffed toy–it’s hilarous.
More violence abounds in this family movie when Samson is handed over to the Philistines by his own people and then decides to kill everyone transporting him with the jawbone of an ass. I was surprised by the close-up shots of the jawbone crushing skulls with blood popping out. It was a pretty “ass-whooping” and that animal had a tough jawbone. It never broke, even against armor.
The movie wraps up similarly to the Biblical narrative, with Samson commiting suicide bythe blessing of God and taking his Philistine captors with him. He’s guided to the pillars he’s to push over by a young Saul, or at least there is a hint that this is the same Saul that would become the first king of Israel. Here’s the big question about the events that led up to that event? Why, if Delilah obtained and revealed the secret of Samson’s strength, did the Philistines stupidly allow Samson to grow out his hair? Sure it was strength sent by God but God’d deal was based on hair growth so didn’t somebody think, “Hey, we need to keep this guy’s head shaved. After all, he went apeshit on us with the jawbone of an ass!”
Now to be clear, it wasn’t just the hair. The Bible says Samson was a Nazirite which includes other Biblical figures such as John the Baptist and Paul. According to EnduringWord.com, these are the requirements of a Nazirite:
He shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord.
So hair was one factor, but drinking wine or vinegar or anything from grapes was another. And he can’t go near dead bodies. I guess Delilah could have fed Samson raisens or thrown a dead body on him while he was sleeping and that would have zapped his strength too.
If a Nazirite screws up and has to restart his vows, after a period of separation from God he must do the following (again, according to EnduringWord.com):
Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
…Because we all know that God likes a basket of unleavened bread cakes to go with his burnt lamb (or maybe the priests were eating this stuff and it was all a scam).
There have been some other Samson movies if you search Netflix, however, they don’t match up to Cecil’s version. It would be nice (and a cartoonist’s dream) to see Hollywood return to the Biblical epic with big stars and a cast of thousands. Maybe the scripts could even stay true to the scriptures because quite a few believers don’t know their Bibles anyways (and how perfectly brutal and graphic the stories are). The Biblical Samson was a vengeful brute and a tall tale, similar to American myths about Paul Bunyan. I suppose it is possible that a man could wrestle a lion and win or catch three hundred foxes and tie pairs together with torches to burn down Philistine crops…But maybe slaughtering a thousand Philistines with a jawbone of an ass is stretching the truth (did the Bible round up?). Or when Samson visited a hooker in the city and was locked in so he had to lift the gates of the city on his back and carry them off (which they didn’t show in the movie, disappointingly enough)–maybe that’s a small lie, a wee stretch of the truth? Now pushing over the pillars so that a Dagon temple collapsed on the Philistines? I guess it’s possible if the place was poorly built.
What I’m saying is: doesn’t this sound like a myth, a story that has been embellished over time until it was written down? It’s a fun story, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a strongman story. If you like Rabbinic literature try reading more on Samson because apparently his shoulders were huge and he could pick up two mountains and rub them together. My point being that he’s a legend. There might have been a Judge of Israel named Samson, sure, but he wasn’t a tall tale. Probably he had muscles to impress the ladies…after all, he liked hookers. Ahh, family values.
BTW: I’m not sure this movie poster was displayed in America? Hedy Lamarr’s boobs are almost showing?