The Shoes Of The Fisherman

  • 1968
  • Movie
  • G
  • Drama

Morris West wrote the screenplay but was so disappointed by the results that he asked that his name be deleted from that credit, while keeping his novel's source credit onscreen. Casting Quinn in the lead as the man who became the leader of the Church occasioned some laughter among wags who dubbed this movie "Zorba, the Pope." Quinn is a Russian Catholic...read more

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Morris West wrote the screenplay but was so disappointed by the results that he asked that his name be deleted from that credit, while keeping his novel's source credit onscreen. Casting Quinn in the lead as the man who became the leader of the Church occasioned some laughter among wags

who dubbed this movie "Zorba, the Pope." Quinn is a Russian Catholic (not Russian Orthodox) priest who has been a political prisoner in a Siberian hard labor camp for 20 years. Olivier is the Soviet premier and orders Quinn's release, but with a strange proviso. The Chinese communists, under the

thumb of Kwouk (who was Peter Sellers' aide in the PINK PANTHER movies, so how could he be taken seriously?), are getting more powerful, and Olivier is allowing Quinn to go to Rome so the USSR will have a friend in the Vatican. There is a powerful famine taking place (this is supposed to be in the

1980s), and the world is close to atomic annihilation over lack of food. Quinn leaves for Rome with Werner, a priest who is vocal about his feelings about the Church and whose writings have put him in trouble with the hierarchy. They arrive at Rome and are immediately interviewed by American TV

newsman Janssen. (In a silly subplot, Janssen is married to Jefford and fooling around with Dexter.) The current pope is Gielgud, who quickly makes Quinn a cardinal, realizing that this might foster better relations between the Soviets and the Free World. Werner is called before the special

commission that is investigating his writings. The group is headed by McKern, a tough old bird who is an arch-conservative. While this is going on, Gielgud dies unexpectedly, and word comes in at almost the same moment that the starving Chinese have their armies ready to cross the borders into

India and Mongolia. With no Holy Father to lead the people, the cardinals go into their conclave to choose a new pope. The electioneering winds up in a deadlock, but Quinn, a reluctant candidate, is finally selected. He is the first non-Italian Pope in four centuries (West must have had ESP,

because in 1978, a Pope from Poland was elected, life imitating art). Olivier contacts Quinn and asks him to intercede with the Chinese. Puzzled by his new duties, Quinn resents the fact that he is kept from the people, so he dons standard cleric's garb and goes into the Roman streets. There, he

meets Jefford, a physician. She tells him about her problems with Janssen, and Quinn offers some fatherly advice about love and marriage. Later, he goes to a meeting in the Far East with Olivier and Kwouk and promises that he will try to find some way that he can help feed the millions of Chinese

who are on the brink of death. Back in the Vatican, Quinn consults with his friend, Werner, but Werner is felled by a cerebral hemorrhage and dies. Quinn does some heavy thinking, talks with McKern, and comes to a momentous decision. The time comes for his coronation in St. Peter's Square, and

Quinn accepts the office, then removes the crown and tells the waiting throngs that he intends to use all of the Church's wealth to feed the hungry, even if it means impoverishing the Church. The picture ends after 162 minutes (at least 25 could have been cut, especially the entire

Janssen-Jefford-Dexter love triangle), and everyone leaves with a good feeling, though nobody believes it for a moment. The picture cost nearly $9 million and failed at the box office. The only notice taken of it was Oscar nominations for North's score and Davis's and Carfagno's art direction. A

replica of the Sistine Chapel was built in California, then sent to Rome because commercial movie companies are not allowed to get too close to the Vatican. Hillier's photography of Rome is excellent; at times the picture looks more like a travelog than a movie. McKern, De Sica, Copley, and Howard

are terrific as men of the cloth, and Finlay and Revill do well as Russian officials. It was at this time that Olivier told the press he had cancer and was determined to beat it--a promise he kept nearly 20 years later when he was still acting.

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  • Rating: G
  • Review: Morris West wrote the screenplay but was so disappointed by the results that he asked that his name be deleted from that credit, while keeping his novel's source credit onscreen. Casting Quinn in the lead as the man who became the leader of the Church occa… (more)

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