1951-1960ClassicsEpicHoward HawksUSA

Howard Hawks – Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

What happens when we die? Probably nothing, and we damn sure can’t take anything with us. But just try telling that to Pharaoh Khufu (Jack Hawkins), who has amassed an ungodly amount of wealth in Howard Hawks’ soapy historical drama Land of the Pharaohs and wants nothing more than to buried with it. Enlisting the help of aging architect/slave Vashtar (James Robertson Justice) to design an intricate robber-proof tomb, Pharaoh Khufu spares no expense — and by that I mean “works thousands of slaves to death and raises taxes” — to ensure that it’s built exactly to spec and will preserve his body and treasures for all eternity. But when his second wife Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins) secretly plots to separate the two of them, a chain of lies and deceit as big as the Great Pyramid itself is set in motion.

Land of the Pharaohs was director Howard Hawks’ largest-scale assignment to date, the first and only time he worked in 2.55:1 Cinemascope (an ultra-wide format used to lure new television owners out of their homes) and, perhaps most importantly, it was his last collaboration with longtime friend William Faulkner, a creative partnership that had flourished since 1933’s Today We Live. Faulkner is listed as one of three credited writers on the film, but you probably wouldn’t know it from the mushy and uneven script that serves as Land of the Pharaohs’ most obvious weakness: its overcooked twists and turns work in tandem with campy dialogue delivery and sweeping historical inaccuracies (which actually got it banned in Egypt) to create an honestly kind of disarming atmosphere that’s nonetheless a bit more “pleasure” than “guilty”, in my opinion… yet I wouldn’t blame first-time viewers for flipping those adjectives around.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Land of the Pharaohs turned out to be a commercial failure and the first of Howard Hawks’ storied career, leading to a brief hiatus for the director that would mercifully end with his exceptional return on the 1959 Western classic Rio Bravo (not coincidentally coming very soon to 4K UHD from Warner Bros.). Yet it’s the film’s reputation as a guilty pleasure — never more evident than in its 2007 DVD debut from WB, who branded Land of the Pharaohs as part of its “Cult Camp Classics” series — that has earned it a surprisingly long life and one that’s long past ripe for re-evaluation, having been championed by the likes of Martin Scorsese as a personal favorite. I can’t share that same level of enthusiasm due to my lack of nostalgic attachment, which I believe you have to have in some capacity to truly fall for its charms. Yet the film’s obvious technical strengths, stunning location cinematography, and extravagant production design certainly elevate Land of the Pharaohs beyond an unearthed minor curiosity.

Aiding its legacy — and timed perfectly to tide Hawks fans over until Rio Bravo comes out — is Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray edition of Land of the Pharaohs, which will absolutely delight apologists of this sword-and-sandal soap opera. Its new 4K-sourced restoration is a cause for celebration by itself, but this disc also comes equipped with a brand new 5.1 audio mix sourced from original four-track stereo elements and a few lightweight bonus features.

Land of the Pharaohs.1955.576p.BDRip-AVC.ZONE.mkv

Container:  	Matroska
Runtime: 	1 h 44 min
Size: 	2.48 GiB
Codec: 	x264
Resolution: 	1024x402 
Aspect ratio:  	2.547
Frame rate: 	23.976 fps
Bit rate: 	3 000 kb/s
BPP: 	0.304
#1:  	English 2.0ch AC-3 @ 224 kb/s
#2:  	English 2.0ch AC-3 @ 160 kb/s (Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich)



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