Thursday, 18 April 2013

"I Am Nellifer!"

That someone came up with the idea of showing Egyptian-themed movies in the midst of the greatest collection of artefacts from that empire's history outside Cairo - they have already shown such gems as Carry On Cleo and Caesar and Cleopatra - is inspired in itself. However, the decision by the hosts of this cornucopia of antiquities, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (our fave small museum in London) to show last night Howard Hawks' much-derided glittering epic Land of the Pharaohs (starring none other than our Patron Saint Joan Collins) was a stroke of genius, high camp style!

I had never seen this high-gloss melodrama before, but my "Campdar" sense was on full alert when I spotted this event and booked seats for Madam Arcati and I - and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. As our "MC", Egyptologist John J Johnston (who also hosts fabulous annual LGBT History month events at the museum) quite rightly observed, the evil scheming bitch role of Queen Nellifer was "a role Joan Collins was born to play and, unfortunately, she has played it in everything ever since..."

Here's the review/description by Hal Erickson from AllRovi of Land of the Pharaohs:
"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 labour 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.
We were in camp heaven, needless to say!

The classic denoument alone was worth it:

Facts about Land of the Pharaohs:
  • Dewey Martin (Senta), the film’s resident hunk, eventually (briefly) married another camp icon, Miss Peggy Lee! [NB Mr Martin is, remarkably, still with us - at the age of 89.]
  • Howard Hawks himself disliked the movie, describing it in an interview as “a lousy picture.” When the BFI decided to do a retrospective season on his works, he asked them not to feature it.
  • Warner Brothers issued the movie on DVD in its “Cult Camp Classics” series, alongside such marvels as Joan Crawford’s last film Trog and that masterpiece of kitsch, Queen of Outer Space starring Zsa Zsa Gabor.
I can't wait to see what other OTT epics the Petrie Museum will trot out in the future...

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

Land of the Pharaohs on IMDB


  1. I saw that a couple of years ago at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood with Dr. Kara Cooney providing commentary, which made it even more hilarious! ;o)

    1. I think it needs to be viewed with one's tongue firmly in one's cheek... Jx

  2. Wonderful post. But the most interesting part for me:...that masterpiece of kitsch, Queen of Outer Space starring Zsa Zsa Gabor.

    Now, WHY have I never seen this???? I am going to need that DVD...

    1. You're going to need some very special stimulants to watch it, too! Jx


Please leave a message - I value your comments!