Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Israel Is the Loser in Loren Film

Cleveland Press January 28, 1966

In "Judith," Sophia Loren saves Israel. She cannot do as much for the movie.

The story is based on an unpublished novel by Lawrence Durrell and if the screenplay is faithful to the original the novel ought to remain unpublished.

The unfortunate part of all this is that a good deal of effort went into creating authentic background for this movie about Israel on the eve of its independence.

The film was shot in Israel and an entire kibbutz (communal farm) was created and eventually destroyed.

LIFE ON A KIBBUTZ, the fears and tensions of the Israelis surrounded by hostile nations prior to the departure of the British, the arrival of illegal refugees -- all these are well depicted in the film.

But all of this is horribly marred by a preposterous story. Shot in Israel and acted by an international cast, the movie still has made-in-Hollywood stamped all over it.

Judith (Sophie Loren), like her Biblical namesake, goes to an enemy general to save a nation. In this motion picture the enemy general is a former Nazi tank officer who is working for the Syrians. The Haganah (underground) suspects his presence but cannot confirm

One person can identify him, his wife, an Austrian Jew. They smuggle her out of Europe into Israel and settle her on a kibbutz run by Peter Finch, a man who is also big in the underground.

SHE WANTS PERSONAL REVENGE. He wants to capture the general to learn the enemy plans. They shout at each other, double cross each other and any moviegoer knows how that's going to end.

There's a far-fetched cloak-and-dagger sequence as Miss Loren, Finch and two others slip to Damascus to kidnap the general. He won't talk, the British leave, the Arabs attack and Miss Loren decides to help out and gets the vital information.

The story has so many holes in it that even the wilder spy movies would be careful about using it.

Vying for honors with the rugged terrain of Israel is the more interesting terrain of Miss Loren wearing a kibbutz uniform that never saw the inside of a kibbutz.

THERE ARE MOMENTS REMINISCENT of some of her finer performances, moments of fear and pain, but these are rare and the character is hopelessly mixed up and implausible.

Peter Finch bellows and roars but is generally believable as the Jewish leader. Jack Hawkins as a British officer has the impossible task of portraying a totally unbelievable character.

The story of the founding of Israel deserves better than this.