‘Moses’ crew ready to take on ‘Samson’

GOOD MORNING: With Passover beginning Wednesday night, it seemed providential that I got a phone call from deep in the desert — only it was from Ouarzazate, at the foot at the Atlas Mountains at the outset of the Sahara. The voice was loud and clear — from “Moses” executive producer, Gerald Rafshoon, who is now also starting “Samson and Delilah,” the fifth TNT mini-major story of the Old Testament. “Moses” airs Easter Sunday and Monday, with Ben Kingsley as Moses, Frank Langella, Christopher Lee and David Suchet co-starring. Meanwhile, digging in again on the desert with “Samson” in the lead is Eric Thal, Elizabeth Hurley as Delilah, Dennis Hopper as Philistine General Tariq, Diana Rigg as Samson’s mom, Michael Gambon as the Philistine King. I asked exec producer Rafshoon how his (and producer Lorenzo Minoli’s) “Samson” differs from the 1949 Cecil B. DeMille epic starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. “We do not want to portray our Samson as a muscle man — beefcake — but rather to show his inner strength, ” he said. “Ours is more realistic, closer to Biblical accuracy. And our Delilah, Elizabeth Hurley, has a very seductive quality — she entices him into her chamber to learn the secret of his strength. And the blinding scene will be shocking.” Director Nicolas Roeg has some added help from today’s special effects technology (the pillars of the temple, the fight with the lion) and from Allan Scott’s script. As did director Roger Young and screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd for their TNT “Moses.” Speaking of Victor Mature, I phoned him at his Rancho Santa Fe home. He said he’s feeling AOK, completely recovered from prostate cancer a couple of years ago. Mature (81) occasionally comes off the golf links down there to look over his property on Pico Blvd. in Westwood. Recalling his “Samson” with DeMille , he laughed, “He (De Mille) had a few tricks, too — to keep me from getting hurt!” Mature says. “I watch some of my old movies — if I want to get sick!”… Rafshoon follows these minis with “David,” “Solomon” and “The Prophets.” They are all budgeted around $13 million thanks to the backing of TNT, LUX, RAI and BetaTaurus. All are filmed in the studio in Morocco’s Ouarzazate with Italian crews headed by costume designer Enrico Sabatini and art director Paulo Biagetti …”Moses” has already been seen in Italy, reports Rafshoon, and did as well as “Joseph,” which was a record-maker on TV there, Spain, Austria, etc. They’ll all be a box set eventually with 30 hours of the Old Testament. Rafshoon is also making contemporary films for TNT. The next, “The Very Best Men” by Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, concerns the CIA covert operations up to and including the Bay of Pigs.

YES, THOSE LYRICS are changed in Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” musicvideo, assures Sandy Gallin, Jackson’s manager. “He redid them” says Gallin, with words like “chew” and “hike” substituted. However, since those who heard the original words (“Jew” and “Kike”) may think they are still hearing the same words, Gallin said Jackson put in a drum roll making the new words almost inaudible. Wouldn’t a completely new set of lyrics, with no possible misinterpretation, have been in order and far more appropriate? … And talking matters musical, Carol Connors and Marshall Lieb, two of the three original Teddy Bears, have filed a five miilion-$ plus suit in Superior Court vs. Phil Spector, Rhino Records, K-Tel Records, Dick Clark Prods. Inc., Billboard Records , etc. It involves the lack of payment for royalties on the sale of the Bears’ classic recording of “To Know Him Is to Love Him.” After a dormancy period where “it was on the shelf,” the complaint states, it’s now on scores of albums and compilations by the defendants. They include “Dick Clark’s 21 All Time Hits, Vol. 1,” “Billboard Top Rock ‘n’ Roll Hits 1955-1958,” etc. Attorney Ed Pease III tells me they (plaintiffs) have received no accounting or royalties since or about 1959. Peese says he also recently filed vs. Motown, which settled on other songs similarly revived.

JOHN GOODMAN WAS BACK with Roseanne — at least he was on hand to watch the taping of her first “Saturday Night Special” for Fox TV to air at 11 p.m. April 13, with six segs to follow. “Mad TV” returns in the slot May 25 for two segs. Roseanne hosted this first seg, which she produces with Sandy Gallin. She also appeared in several segs — like holding a meeting with the writers, playing a Demi Moore-like character being interviewed by “Barbara Walters” (Bob Rubin) showing her “Striptease” expertise, etc. Ben Stiller hosts the second seg … Clint Eastwood and Dina Ruiz were married Sunday at Steve Wynn’s Vegas home … The John Wayne Cancer Institute Odyssey Ball at the Century Plaza raised a half million-$ for the Wayne Cancer Institute. The Michael Waynes and daghter Alicia and husband Jim McFarlane were highest bidders for the “School Safari” package in the auction.