Masada, a movie review

MasadaMovieI don’t know when I first became aware of the story of Masada, and the tragedy of what occurred there.  It may have been the first time I watched the TV mini-series starring Peter O’Toole and Peter Strauss.  Certainly my interest rekindled when I read the amazing story by Alice Hoffman called The Dove Keepers which draws together the lives of 4 women with varied backgrounds who tended the doves at Masada until the end of the story.  It has also spurred my interest in the archaeology of the Middle East.  It is a story of courage and faith, and a refusal to bend to the slavery of the cruel Roman Empire.

MasadaTowerI’ve been watching Masada while riding my stationary bike the past few days and am taken again by both the story and the acting skill of Peter O’Toole (General Silva).  Filmed almost entirely in Israel using a replica of the fortress (approximately a mile away from the original stronghold), and under the directorship of Boris Sagal, the series was based on a book of the same name by Ernest K. Gann, and the filming in that dessert location is stunning.  There’s not a lot of known/confirmed history about this event aside from about 5 pages from the writings of Josephus, a Romano-Jewish scholar/historian of the 1st century and some archaeological evidence uncovered by Yigael Yadin.  Despite scant documentation, Gann, and screenwriter Joel Oliansky, have created a compelling scenario with accompanying drama and tension, as the stand-off unfolds between Silva and Eleazar, both unlikely and sympathetic heroes.

Quayle and O’Toole, Part 2 of TV mini-series

Out of 13 Prime-time Emmy Awards, the series won 8 of them, including outstanding lead actor for both O’Toole and Strauss (Eleazar) and lead supporting actor for Anthony Quayle (Rubrius Gallus, Silva’s chief engineer).  The music by Jerry Goldsmith and the set design (see names here) were also fantastic.  This is another “futility of war” movie but a stunning movie that begins with the burning of Jerusalem.  N.Y. Times writer John J. O’Connor called it an epic to “snuggle up to”, served up “on a grand scale: historic sweep, heightened confrontations, explosive passions” and described O’Toole’s performance as one that “steals every scene that comes anywhere near him . . . in his inimitably polished way”.  One of the great epics of all time! * * * * *


About mysm2000

Having taught elementary school for more than 25 years and been involved in many amazing technology and curriculum projects, I find I've developed a myriad of interests based on literature I've read and music I've heard. I've followed The Wright Three to Chicago, Ansel Adams to Colorado, The Kon Tiki Expedition to Easter Island, Simon & Garfunkel lyrics to New York City, Frank Lloyd Wright to Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, and have only just begun.
This entry was posted in Adult Book, Drama, Historical Fiction, Movie, Opinion, War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Masada, a movie review

  1. Such a terrible tragedy, Masada. Thank you for recommending the movie/miniseries.


    • mysm2000 says:

      You’re welcome. I found both the book and the movie filled in a lot of gaps for me and even though much of it is fictionalized, I hadn’t realized there were survivors. Amazing story and Hoffman is such an accomplished story-teller.


  2. mysm2000 says:

    Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:

    Recently I wrote this review about the movie based on the 1981 miniseries about Masada. This week, CBS has been airing a new miniseries about the same subject based on the Alice Hoffman book, The Dovekeepers, one of my all time favourite books which I reviewed on my very first blog. If the story of Masada has captured your interest, you may want to also watch this movie, or the miniseries it was based on; you might also enjoy Hoffman’s book. You might like it even better than the miniseries.


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