Jerusalem, circa 150 BC: The Syrians led by Appolonio (Jacques
Berthier) are threatening to take over the city, and while Jude (John
Heston), son of the high priest (Carlo Tamberlani), wants to fight, his
brother Simon (Brad Harris) suggests a peaceful solution - but Simon is
not exactly popular with the Hebrews since he counts Syrians, first and
foremost poet-turned-soldier Antenone (Vladimir Leib) among his friends.
Ultimately, Jude wins the argument, and he and his men succeed in fighting
back the Syrians, but once the battle is won, Jude has to realize the war
is lost, so he and his army and most of the Hebrews just leave the city to
regather and prepare for a later attack.
Simon stays behind in Jerusalem
when the Syrians finally take the city, and thinks he can make peace with
Appolonio - but is gravely wounded and survives only thanks to the
courageous Syrian noblewoman Diotina (Mara Lane), who nurses him back to
health and facilitates his escape from Jerusalem.
Simon soon catches up
with the Hebrews and is eventually joined by Diotina there, who prefers
being a prisoner with the Hebrews but near to Simon to being a free woman
and respected in Jerusalem.
It doesn't take long for Simon and Jude to
reconciliate, and when Jude dies in battle, he pronounces Simon the new
leader of his people - but Simon turns down the responsibility in favour
of his young brother Jonathan (Enzo Doria). Jonathan though dies in an
ambush, when the Hebrews try to take the city Joppe - Appolonio's main
port of supply - by peaceful means ... which forces Simon to become the
leader of the Hebrews after all and lead his people into battle, at first
to take Joppe. Later, the Hebrews, now in league with the Arabs, use
Diotina as bait to get into Jerusalem - and finally succeed in defeating
During that battle, Simon goes one-on-one with Appolonio -
but is spared having to kill him when one of his archers shoots Appolonio
after he tried to make an unfair move.
With the city back in Hebrew
possession, Simon shows himself magnanimous and sets all prisoners of war
free to ensure lasting peace with the Syrians ...
Testament is way too grand a title for a film that concentrates on
only one of the lesser known episodes of the bible - but that doesn't
automatically make the movie in question a bad one, does it?
Old Testament is a rather average epic movie, its budget does live up
to the demands of the story (not always the case with Italian epic
movies), so sets, props and costumes are convincing enough, there are
enough battle scenes to keep one entertained, and the ensemble, while by
no means great, is at least adequate. On the downside though, the film's
110 minute running time is way too long to keep up interest, it lacks the
greatness of a truly good epic movie, but also the naive charm of a truly
bad one, its battle scenes are nothing special and in all the film lacks
the weird setpieces that have made many (much cheaper) Italian
sword-and-sandal epics (or peplums, if you may) so great in their own way.