Samson and Delilah (1996)  TV

 

 

Director:  Nicolas Roeg.

Starring:  Elizabeth Hurley (Dalila), Michael Gambon (Re hamun), Dennis Hopper (General Tariq), Diana Rigg (Mara), Daniel Massey (Ira), Paul Freeman (Manoach), Ben Becker (Principe Sidqa), Jale Arikan (Noemi), Deborah Caprioglio (Rani), Alessandro Gassman (Amrok), Pinkas Braun (Harach), Sebastian Knapp (Yoram), Karl Tessler (Jehiel), Luke Mullaney (Amram), Tim Gallagher (Habor).

Made for TV movie.

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

It is the time of the Judges.  God has punished the children of Israel for their sins by delivering them into the hands of the Philistines. 

God appears to an older woman telling her that she will have a son and that he will be a Nazerite, that is, one dedicated to God.  He shall eat no unclean food nor drink any strong drink.  His hair shall never be cut as a symbol of his covenant with God. 

Samson is born to father Manoah and mother Mara.  They see Samson as the Lord's gift: the chosen one to deliver his people.  He is the start of the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistines.

In the camp of the Philistines is the beautiful Delilah, who is friends with General Tariq, first general of the Philistines.  (The many victories of the Philistines over the Israelites is partly the result of the Philistines having iron swords and the Israelites only have those of bronze.) 

Among Samson's close friends are Yoram (10 years younger than Samson) and Naomi (who lost her entire family in a Philistine destruction of her entire village).  Naomi is a fervent supporter of the idea of Israeli rebellion against the Philistines.

One day, Samson sees a beautiful young Philistine woman and is very much taken with her. 

Naomi is always trying to get Samson into the rebellion movement, but he resists thinking it much too premature.  He keeps repeating that God will let him know when it is time.  Naomi deliberately provokes a small band of Philistine soldiers to force Samson to intervene on her behalf.  Samson does and defeats the entire band, sending them racing back to Philistine.  Over and over again, Naomi shouts:  "Samson broke them!"

The Philistines seek revenge on this strongman Samson.  But Delilah primarily wants to see this Samson.  She sets up camp near Samson's village.  As she is out strolling under the watchful eye of Samson, he intervenes to save her from a predatory lion.  With his bare hands, he kills the lion. 

The King of the Philistines and Prince Sidqa want to capture Samson and bring him to Gaza.  They send soldiers into Samson's village.  They know where he lives because they bribed his two brothers , Jehiel and Amram, to show them the way.  They cast a net over Samson but he breaks away and with the jawbone of an ass kills many of the Philistine soldiers.  But Samson received no help from any of his fellow villagers and he is furious with them, asking: "Where were you?  We had them out-numbered by a hundred?"

Samson hides.  He, Yoram and father Manoah suddenly realize that it is Jehiel and Amram who betrayed Samson.  Samson starts to throttle them, but releases them upon the request of his father.  Samson decides to go away from his village for a long respite.

Samson runs into a caravan.  One of the men is Amrok, an Israelite, adopted by a Philistine family.  Samson goes with Amrok to his home in Philistine.  Amrok introduces Samson to his sister, Rani, who is the young Philistine woman Samson was so taken with earlier.  Rani and Samson are soon in love.  Rani tells her father that she wants Samson as her husband.  But Dad is worried because the Philistines might kill them all for harboring Samson.  He is re-assured later when he thinks that the King has given the wedding his blessing.  Samson's mother shows up and slaps him for deserting his people. And she tells her son that Rani will betray him. 

But the narrator says that the love of a Philistine woman actually began to fulfill the will of God. 

At the wedding Samson offers a riddle to the attendees (which included Mahal, the leader of a group of soldiers sent to capture Samson).  Samson tells everyone that the one who solves the riddle will receive 30 linen garments.  Rani nags Samson until he gives up the solution to the riddle.  Mahal then grabs her father to demand that he get the solution from his daughter or else. 

Samson is stunned when Mahal provides the answer to the riddle.  He looks at Rani and shouts: "Wife!"   Samson then goes on a rampage.  He rips up a tree by its roots and uses it to smash the Philistine soldiers.  Later he dumps the soldiers off a small cliff, except that he lets Mahal go back to Gaza to tell the King what happened.  Mahal tells the tale to the King.  And then they realize that Samson has set the fields surrounding them on fire. 

Samson then goes home.  His people, however, are very mad at him because they are now undergoing Philistine reprisals and are afraid they might lose everything they own.  (Mahal later returns to kill Runi and her father.  Only Amrok escapes death.)

After the death of his father, Samson becomes a Judge.  He is very wise and very good.  He says: "Until the wheel turns again, I am home." 

But Samson never could stay too long in one place.  He had two burning desires that he had to constantly fight: "the flame of lust and the fire of revenge."  He heads off to Gaza to satisfy both urges.  There he kills Mahal. 

And finally Delilah gets into the movie in more than a fleeting way.   The King, Sidqa and Gen. Tariq all urge Delilah to save the Philistine people by seducing Samson and learning the secret of his great strength so that he might be overcome.  Delilah agrees, but only after she is guaranteed a large sum of money for her efforts.  Again Delilah sets up her camp near where Samson can be found.  Curious, one day he wanders to the camp and is greeted by Delilah.  Delilah then goes on to seduce Samson.  His lust wins over the need to lead his people.  In fact, Samson falls in love with Delilah.  Blinded by love, he finally reveals his secret to the ever persistent Delilah. One morning she cuts his hair and the troops rush in to capture Samson.  Prince Sidqa immediately blinds Samson with a lit fire torch. 

Samson is put into prison where he has plenty of time to think:  "I have been a great sinner!"; "I pray for the courage to repent.". 

Samson's two brothers (the one who betrayed him) lead a rebellion against the Philistines.  But they are easily slaughtered by the professional army of General Tariq. 

Samson in iron chains is paraded out to a festival where the Philistine court can jeer and taunt him.  But they make the mistake of placing him between the two main support pillars of the palace.   Samson pushes the pillars apart and down comes the palace killing Delilah, the King, Prince Sidqa and General Tariq.

 

This version is more traditional than the 1984 movie version.  Delilah get less play in this version and she is more traditionally mercenary.  Being in the Bible Collection it is also less sexy than the 1984 version.  Elizabeth Hurley is very beautiful but in a PG sort of sexuality (force upon her, of course).  She did a lot better than I expected.  For a muscle man, Michael Gambon also does a good job. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

 

See Samson and Delilah (1949).

 

 

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