Hopefully anyone settling in for One Night with the King (2006), now on Blu-ray for the first time, will already have a good working knowledge of the Biblical Book of Esther. I don’t, which made it nearly impossible to understand what exactly was going on throughout this muddled costume drama. Stephan Blinn based his screenplay on Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen’s novel Hadassah: One Night with the King. I didn’t read that either, but I sincerely hope it boasts a clearer storytelling style than this adaptation.
Basically, King Xerxes I of Persia (Luke Goss) banishes his wife, Queen Vashti (Jyoti Dogra), because she opposes his political plans. This was, after all, a long time before the Women’s Liberation Movement. He goes about choosing a new queen, eventually settling on Hadassah (Tiffany Dupont). He wouldn’t have chosen her had he known that was her real name. She goes by Esther to hide her Jewish ancestry.
Once Esther learns of a plot to murder her new husband, she and her uncle Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies) team with Prince Memucan (Omar Sharif) to try and stop it from occurring. It’s nasty Prince Admatha (John Noble) who seeks the throne and will stop at nothing to eliminate Xerxes. Former WWF wrestler Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr. plays the Royal Eunuch, Hegai. Peter O’Toole has what amounts to a cameo (despite his name being prominently displayed on the box) as Prophet Samuel. Honestly, even though I knew it was rated PG, I kept hoping for some Caligula-style degradation to enliven the proceedings (especially with hottie Dupont on hand).
I will offer this much advice: even if you haven’t seen the film before, watch it with the audio commentary. Producers Stephan Blinn, Richard Cook, and Matthew Crouch (they worked together previously on The Omega Code movies) sit for a running chat that is far more coherent and interesting than the film itself. It was recorded in 2012, but the three filmmakers manage to convey a very detailed account of the production. These guys seem to have a very good grasp on the material and speak about the considerable effort that went into the film. I guess the ambitious visual effects took center stage. In the commentary we’re told that based on the amount of footage filmed, two separate 100-minute films were considered at one point. I’m guessing the choppy storytelling is due to all the material that was edited out.
Luckily One Night with the King is at the very least a great looking movie and has been given a terrific Blu-ray transfer. Steven Bernstein’s Super 35mm cinematography blends seamlessly with a ton of CG imagery. The production budget was reportedly about $20 million. From the looks of it, every dollar ended up on screen. Fine detail is extremely strong throughout, with the elaborate sets, costumes, and digital creations all looking awesome. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix presents no problems, even if it perhaps isn’t quite as immersive as might be expected of a historical epic. Dialogue and J.A.C. Redford’s score are crisp, with the music expanding to the rear channels effectively when needed.
The new commentary is the only feature, but as already stated it adds considerable value to a movie that’s pretty tough to sit through. Even devotees of the Bible may find themselves perplexed by the convoluted tangle of plots in One Night with the King.