Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week. The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie and Lowell Gilmore may be viewed here, here, here, here here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here and here.
Of all the big budget Biblical epics of Hollywood, King of Kings (1961) gets the least respect and perhaps deservedly so. The film is notable for being the first big budget Hollywood movie to depict Christ directly, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role. Although Hunter was the correct age, 33, he looked far younger and the film has sometimes been nicknamed “I Was A Teenage Christ”.
Veteran actor Hurd Hatfield portrayed Pilate. It is an interesting portrayal with Pilate cool, haughty and officially correct in his examination of Christ and highly emotional behind the scenes. Josephus depicts Pilate as being irascible and possessed of a violent temper and Hatfield gives us that dimension of Pilate.
Hatfield does what he can but at 168 minutes King of Kings comes across as bloated and filled with completely fictional side stories that merely slow down the film. Christ is depicted on screen in only about half the film. The picture could have been shorn down to 120 minutes with virtually nothing of substance being lost.