Land of The Pharaohs
One of the many films listed as Martin Scorsese's guilty pleasures, and one of the lesser films of the great Howard Hawks, Land of The Pharaohs is an epic film set in Ancient Egypt. First, I must admit that I love Hawks' latest films from Hatari! to El Dorado. His color films have this lavishtone and feeling. Second, I'm a sucker for epic movies of the 1950's. For example, I loved Byron Haskins' The Naked Jungle. Even though if those films are considered as lesser works I just can't help it! I love those films!
Despite the many anachronisms, believe me I have a formation in History I will spare you the details, Land of The Pharaohs is a historical epic film. The grand spectacle depicting characters bigger and bolder than any other life is everything about decadence, gold, and opportunists. The overwhelming visual sets of epic proportions, the thousands of extras, the whole extravaganza of it all is the Hawksian facet of the too much. His following film was one of his greatest masterpieces, Rio Bravo, also a colored film but deeper and multilayered. Land of The Pharaohs was the only Cinemascope picture made by Hawks, and even if it feels like it is an experimentation in style, the film has these Hawksian dialogues and many sexual subtexts. It's also interesting to notice that he made a film set in Ancient Egypt times, a time where the women were well considered compared to many other times in History. It is a well known fact that Hawks was a man who loved women that stood up and could enter within the men's preoccupations. Princess Nellifer is the extension of this concept pushed on the other extreme.
Nonetheless, Land of The Pharaohs has a classic story even if Hawks inserted his own vision in the whole thing. The "auteur"'s touch is very present and as the critics of the French New Wave remarked, the Hawks presence is subtle but well felt.
The decadence of Hawks' extravaganza is more than worth a look and even if some elements may seem quirky, well it is, or cheesy, it is too, the picture is a lot of fun. A pure cinematic enjoyment full of visual beauty, read Joan Collins here, and a superb mise en scène. Its detractors must see the picture as a great entertainment piece of the sevneth art instead of the overachievement of a great director. It ain't Howard Hawks' greatest film and it is not one of his masterpieces but a very enjoyable film set in Ancient Egypt.