Written by / 4/18/2018 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

PETER O'TOOLE RETURNS TO THE DESERT-SET EPIC FOR 'MASADA'

Year: 1982 Rating: ****
It doesn't get much better than suffering along with Peter O'Toole as a vulnerable Roman general weeding out a small yet tight band of Jewish rebels that, because of the nature in which this true life story winds up, are still considered Zealots (albeit more like idealists), a label usually only pinned on Christians...

As the leader of that group, TV miniseries staple Peter Strauss uses a booming Shakespearian stage voice, seeming more driven on behalf of history than the story at hand...

Peter O'Toole and David Warner in MASADA
And not only while yelling down to the five-thousand-strong Roman army waiting beneath he and his 900 followers' mountaintop fortress of... MASADA —like many TV epics, it's a hit and miss venture...

The hits have mostly to do with O'Toole's Cornelius Flavius Silva, making judgments outside his tent or philosophizing inside with either sneaky friend-turned-foe David Warner or sexy slave love-interest Barbara Carrera...

The latter, while nice to look at, seems exactly what her character is — fiction placed within a history biopic, and that especially includes Strauss's Eleazar ben Yair — only God knows who led these particular Israelites to hold their ground while antagonizing the opponents below (the teleplay's based on a historical novel THE ANTAGONISTS)...

Warren Clarke and Ken Hutchison in MASADA: ****
For example, in one scene, the rebels splash loudly in a pool within their unreachable haven — of endless food and water — while the beleaguered Romans are allowed only three drinks per day in the scorching heat...

Meanwhile, Strauss's guttural rants are narrowed into clever (yet sometimes unrealistically fathomed) mind-game tactics...

A good thing because not only does O'Toole... a veteran of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA... fit the desert terrain, he can handle the stage-like dialogue naturally while another ARABIA veteran, Anthony Quayle, is a wise and patient Roman engineer, progressively building an earth-massed ramp to reach the fortress where a monstrous construction, looking like a Trojan Horse with a ram's head, awaits to finish the job.

Lawrence of Arabia castmates Peter O'Toole & Anthony Quayle
Too much time's spent trying to rationalize why things will end in a mass suicide, taking away from the Romans... whose conversations are never dull and always intriguing... Including one of two CLOCKWORK ORANGE actors, Clive Francis (Joe the Lodger), giving orders to his men to work harder and harder, like Warren "Dim" Clarke and STRAW DOGS baddie Ken Hutchison (who was trying to kill David Warner in that movie), disgruntled gladiators seeking  a mutiny...

It's through their grounded eyes we truly experience the hellish task that's far more interesting and entertaining than the anticipation the Jews felt as it grew and grew, and that's the problem: For while one side is on the right side of history, Peter Strauss and friends (played by American actors while the Romans are British) are simply too perfect to really feel for and/or relate with. Either way, Peter O'Toole gets nearly the entire plot handed to him — that he gives back to the audience on a gold platter within an otherwise silver-plated production.
And Lawrence of Arabia castmates Peter O'Toole & Anthony Quayle in Lawrence of Arabia
Warren Clarke who played Dim in Clockwork Orange with Ken Hutchison who played Norm Scutt in STRAW DOGS
Ken Hutchison up front with Warren "Dim" Clarke in the background... Hutchison's one of this site's favorites
Masada Ken Hutchison Masada for Google search and oh, David Warner makes for number two of the Straw Dogs alumni
Warren Clarke on The Sweeney episode "Contact Breaker" as Danny Keefer
And a disguised Ken Hutchison did a Sweeney Season 2 episode "Stay Lucky, Eh?"
David Warner and Peter O'Toole in MASADA
David Warner  in MASADA
David Warner  in MASADA with Clive Francis and Peter O'Toole

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