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Directed by Nicholas Ray

United States 1961 168 mins.

King of Kings, Ray’s second film for MGM, is truly his “epic” (featuring narration by Orson Welles!), a lavish historical ensemble drama chronicling the life of Jesus Christ (Jeffrey Hunter), but still very much a Ray film in its intimate focus on individual crises. The film’s main temporal focus is the lead-up to Jesus’ crucifixion, complete with the shady, back-alley political maneuverings and sweeping drama. While the film was shot in Technirama 70mm, with thousands of extras, excessive studio involvement made it so “the tension between ambition and compromise is rarely more glaringly obvious than it is with King of Kings.”—Bernard Eisenschitz.