The Big Fisherman begins with the half-Judean, half-Arabian Fara (Susan Kohner), and Arabian prince Voldi (John Saxon), who’s love is blighted by rival prince Deran (Ray Stricklyn) revealing that Fara’s father – whom she has never known – is the evil Herod Antipas (Herbert Lom). The truth of this is confirmed by her mother, Arnon (Marion Seldes) on her death-bed, and in a rage, Fara swears vengeance on Herod for deserting her mother for the infamous Herodias (Martha Hyer). Consumed with anger, she disguises herself as a boy and leaves, vowing to kill Herod. Voldi is given permission to find her and bring her back, but in Judea he is detained by Roman soldiers under Proconsul Mencius. Fara, is befriended by John The Baptist (Jay Barney), who tells her, “ Seek Him. You have need of Him”. Later, tired and bedraggled, she is discovered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee by Simon – the Big Fisherman, who takes her to the home of his mother-in-law, Hannah (Beulah Bondi), who soon discovers that Fara is really a girl and gives her some suitable clothes.
Fara and Simon are both greatly affected by the Sermon on the Mount, though Fara at first rejects Jesus’ message of “Love thine enemies”. Simon is overwhelmed when a blind baby he is holding in his arms is cured by the touch of Jesus’ hand, and is soon called to become one of the first disciples.
Though Voldi has managed to escape from captivity in Judea, he is once again arrested by the Romans, with orders to return him to Arabia, where his enemy Deran is now king. John The Baptist’s death has plunged Herod Antipas into a deep fear of retribution. He is confronted by Fara who reveals her true identity as she goes to kill him with a dagger, but her hand is stayed at the last moment as she recalls Jesus’ words, “Thou shalt not kill”.
Hastening to Arabia to help Voldi, they arrive just in time to prevent his flogging. Deran, crippled by paralysis, begs Simon to heal him, promising the release of Voldi and justice for all. Simon heals him, but Deran renages on his promise, which causes the paralysis to return with fatal results. Voldi is acclaimed king, but destiny decrees that Voldi and Fara must first bring peace to their two countries before they can find happiness together. (From John Hayes/Wide Screen Movies Magazine)
The film is adapted from a novel written by Lloyd C. Douglas. The novel is closely related to Douglas’ previous book, The Robe, which was also adapted as a movie.
The Robe ends with “the Big Fisherman” as a nickname for Peter, Jesus called him “the fisher of men” and “the Rock”. The story traces Peter’s journey from self-sufficient fisherman to his dependency on a risen Christ. It also presents another story of redemption and forgiveness, as he takes in a young runaway Arab girl, Fara. She has come to take vengeance on her father, Herod Antipas, for his treatment of her mother. She is followed by Voldi, an Arab prince who wishes to marry her and take her back home. As they both learn of Jesus, it changes their lives.
The film was shot in Super Panavision 70 (the first film so credited) by Lee Garmes. The original music score was composed by Albert Hay Malotte, an American composer who is best known for his musical setting of The Lord’s Prayer, composed in 1935, and introduced on radio that year by John Charles Thomas.
Though originally rejected by Walt Disney because of its religious tone, the film was supported by Roy Disney, and was distributed by Buena Vista, making it one of the few religious films ever associated with the Disney Company.
Follows The Robe (1953) and Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
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