Metro’s treatment of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (from Luke XV) is a bigscale spectacle, making overwhelmingly lavish use of sets, props, CinemaScoped Eastman Color and a well-populated cast. End result of all this flamboyant polish, however, is only fair entertainment.
The brief 22 verses which tell the story of the prodigal who wanders from his home in pursuit of the high priestess of Astarte have been stretched to one hour and 57 minutes.
With rather empty characters to portray in the screenplay, from the adaptation by Joe Breen Jr and Samuel James Larsen, the performances by Lana Turner, as the high priestess; Edmund Purdom, the prodigal; Louis Calhern, the high priest of Baal; and most of the others in the huge cast are hollow and generally uninteresting. Almost the only note of character warmth is to be found in the romance between the mute runaway slave (James Mitchell) and the high priestess slave (Taina Elg).
Most of the screen plot takes place in pagan Damascus, where the prodigal is busy spending his third of his father’s wealth trying to win the priestess away from her pagan gods to be his wife. It’s a standoff, though, because he will not give up his God, Jehovah. The pagan revelry and temple maidens dedicated to love come off tamely in the film. So do the love scenes between Turner and Purdom.