Ukrainian Archbishop Kiril Lakota is set free after twenty years as a political prisoner in Siberia. He is brought to Rome by Father David Telemond, a troubled young priest who befriends ...
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Ukrainian Archbishop Kiril Lakota is set free after twenty years as a political prisoner in Siberia. He is brought to Rome by Father David Telemond, a troubled young priest who befriends him. Once at the Vatican, he is immediately given an audience with the Pope, who elevates him to Cardinal Priest. The world is on the brink of war due to a Chinese-Soviet feud made worse by a famine caused by trade restrictions brought against China by the U.S. When the Pontiff suddenly dies, Lakota's genuine character and unique life experience move the College of Cardinals to elect him as the new Pope. But Pope Kiril I must now deal with his own self-doubt, the struggle of his friend Father Telemond, who is under scrutiny for his beliefs, and find a solution to the crisis in China.
One of two theatrical movies in which Sir Laurence Olivier and Frank Finlay, both members of the National Theatre of Great Britain, appeared together. The other one was Othello (1965), for which both actors were nominated for Oscars. See more »
TV reporter George Faber (David Janssen) reacts with surprise when Lakota appears on the balcony after his election and declares, "It's Lakota. They've elected a Russian pope." But the identity of a new pope is always announced from the balcony before his first appearance as pontiff. See more »
The film adaption of Morris West's best selling novel Shoes of the Fisherman gives the viewer a rare insight into the workings of the Catholic Church. Even the most dogged of unbelievers have always conceded that in this form of the Christian faith there has always been a grand pageantry at work.
It also a great example of life imitating art. Anthony Quinn is the former Archbishop of Lvov who was sent away for many years by the Communists to time in the Gulag. As a gesture of goodwill the Soviet Premier played Laurence Olivier gives him his release. Quinn and Olivier also have a history of their own, Olivier was the KGB official who interrogated Quinn back in the day and we know what their interrogation methods were like.
Upon reaching the Vatican, the Pope played by John Gielgud makes him a Cardinal. A few months later Gielgud dies and in the conclave to elect a new Pope, it's decided that Cardinal Quinn has some insight into an unbelieving part of the word that no one else possesses. So Quinn steps into The Shoes of the Fisherman.
So we have the first non-Italian Pope in 400 years as we shortly did in real life. Quinn inherits a world in crisis with China suffering from famine and threatening war against its neighbors to obtain food.
I can't reveal what Quinn actually did in the film, but it seems as though he took his cue from Pope Benedict XV who also tried to use his good office to end World War I and also organized relief efforts. In any event, he put it all on the line and I do mean all.
Tony Quinn and Laurence Olivier had a history of their own. They co-starred on Broadway in Becket with Olivier as Becket and Quinn as Henry II. Though there sure wasn't anything wrong with the film adaption that Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole did, it might have been nice to see the original cast perform this.
In fact my favorite in this film is Olivier. With the Soviet Union now broken up we can look back now and see the problems confronting each Soviet premier as they tried to hold their polyglot state of several republics together. Olivier's Kamenev is in the tradition of Leonid Brezhnev who was in charge at the time of the Soviet Union. It's with complete seriousness that the actor playing the Chinese premier calls him half a capitalist already. Of course when Mao died, the Chinese have become more than half capitalist themselves.
Others in the cast of note are Oskar Werner as a non-conforming Jesuit who espouses some heretical doctrine who Quinn finds intriguing and Leo McKern and Vittorio DeSica as a pair of politically astute Cardinals.
Good location shooting nicely blended with newsreel footage of crowd scenes give the film a real authenticity. I think Catholic viewers will like Shoes of the Fisherman especially.
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