Noah's Ark (1929):

Warner Bros.' supersized WWI-statement-cum-Biblical-sprawler, with Old Testament "best of" bits parachuted into What Price Glory territory courtesy of Darryl F. Zanuck's pen. Director Michael Curtiz kicks things off already in overdrive, with a feverish montage (heavy enough to make Pudovkin smile) intercutting B.C. pagans leering over ripe flesh and fake idols with Jazz Age capitalists worshipping their own Golden Calf, the skyscrapers of Wall Street -- the whole shebang finally melting onto a statue of Christ, impassively staring down the camera. Shift gears to 1914 Europe, where the first Great War is about to break as American he-men George O'Brien and Guinn Williams trek through and pick up golden-tressed frau Dolores Costello on their way to the trenches. Bible thumper Paul McAllister pops up just in time to usher in the Flood segments, casting himself as Noah and not stinting on the blindings, burning bushes and mass drownings. Stylistically, the film is just as much of a hybrid -- sinuous visuals in the silent passages, leaden speakers looking for the mike in the talkie inserts. Aiming for De Mille blockbusting, it boasts some fake-Babylonian splendor, though none of C.B.'s lascivious-prurient absurdism. Still, there's a certain poignancy in its hopes of a civilization actually learning from the spilling of blood. "The Flood and the War -- God Almighty's parallel of the ages," intones McAllister at the end. He hadn't seen nothin' yet. With Noah Beery and, in one scene, Myrna Loy. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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