Land of the Pharaohs

Land of the Pharaohs

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Howard Hawks, Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Dewey Martin


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"Nobody knew how a Pharaoh talked!" That's how producer/director Howard Hawks explained some of the sillier dialogue exchanges in the William Faulkner-Harry Kurnitz-Harold Jack Bloom script for Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs.See more details below


"Nobody knew how a Pharaoh talked!" That's how producer/director Howard Hawks explained some of the sillier dialogue exchanges in the William Faulkner-Harry Kurnitz-Harold Jack Bloom script for Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs. Extravagantly produced with a cast of seeming millions (actually there were some 10,000 extras), the film speculates on the circumstances surrounding the construction of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Jack Hawkins plays the Pharaoh, who orders enslaved architect James Robertson Justice to build a magnificent, thief-proof tomb for him. At first, the people of Egypt willingly pitch in to construct the huge pyramid. But as the years roll by and the work shows no signs of abating, the Pharaoh begins relying upon forced labor from lands he has conquered. He also plunders the coffers of his neighboring countries. Cyprus can't pony up the necessary gold, so the country sends luscious Joan Collins (complete with a jewel in her navel) as a "present" for the Pharaoh. Fascinated by the spitfire Collins, the Pharaoh makes her his second wife. What he doesn't know is that Collins is just as much a predator as she would be in the TV series Dynasty. Hoping to gain all of the Pharaoh's kingdom and the riches therein, she stage-manages her husband's death. After the funeral procession, the Pharaoh is sealed in his tomb by a series of sand-operated weights, levers and pulleys (this speculation as to how the Pyramids were closed is the most fascinating part of the film). Collins watches in barely controlled glee; she isn't yet privy to the Egyptian custom of entombing the Pharaoh's widow alive, along with her husband's body--but she soon will be.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
This motion picture lodges in film history as one of the grandiose historical epics created between 1950 and 1960 to lure moviegoers away from a new form of entertainment -- television. Like other epics of that period, Land of the Pharaohs resorts to pomp and pageantry to lure audiences back to the silver screen. For example, the film opens with a spectacular cavalcade in which Pharaoh Khufu (also known to history by his Greek name Cheops) returns from war laden with gold and precious gems to sustain himself in the afterlife. Worried that grave robbers will steal his treasure, Khufu enlists thousands of laborers to construct a colossal tomb that will secure his body and his treasure for all time. Gigantic blocks of stone float on Nile barges to the construction site. Laborers promised a share in the afterlife tow the blocks across the desert with ropes. A rousing Dimitri Tiomkin score accompanies every tug and pull. Then the pyramid rises from the nothing of sand to into a mountain of rock scraping the firmament. Meanwhile, Princess Nellifer, the pharaoh's number two wife, plots to kill him, seize his treasure, and sit on the throne. Jack Hawkins as Pharaoh Khufu and James Robertson-Justice as pyramid builder Vashtar both perform capably. But it is Alexis Minotis as Khufu's loyal adviser Hamar who delivers the most memorable performance. Hamar is a small man with a big mind; he comprehends power, ambition, greed, and the necessity for diplomacy to navigate the crocodilian waters of Egyptian court life. Like a mirror, his eyes reflect all that is good and evil in Egyptian politics, but his ambiguous face yields only an occasional hint of the myriad opinions that never cross his tongue. Not all of the acting is praiseworthy. Dewey Martin is lackluster in his portrayal of Vashtar's son, and Joan Collins overacts as Nellifer. In addition, the script -- though partly written by William Faulkner -- is uninspired. Nevertheless, the film is good enough to command and hold the attention of the viewer as it presents ancient Egypt and 1950s Hollywood in all of their flawed glory.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Archives
[Full Frame]
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jack Hawkins Pharaoh Cheops
Joan Collins Princess Nellifer
Dewey Martin Senta
Alexis Minotis Hamar
James Robertson Justice Vashtar
Luisa Boni Kyra
Sydney Chaplin Trench
James Hayter Mikka, Vashtar's Servant
Kerima Queen Nailla
Piero Giagnoni Prince Zanin
Carlo D'Angelo Overseer

Technical Credits
Howard Hawks Director,Producer
Harold Jack Bloom Screenwriter
William Faulkner Screenwriter
Rudi Fehr Editor
Lee Garmes Cinematographer
Russell Harlan Cinematographer
Paul Helmick Asst. Director
Harry Kurnitz Screenwriter
Emile LaVigne Makeup
Mayo Costumes/Costume Designer
Vladimir Sagovsky Editor
Don Steward Special Effects
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer
Alexandre Trauner Art Director

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