"Peter and Paul" may owe all too much to Procter & Gamble, the soap company that sponsors and developed this lugubrious biblical trudge for CBS. The first half of the four-hour film airs tomorrow at 8 and the second part Tuesday at 9 on Channel 9; it would be dull at any season but seems especially so after the comparatively eventful sweep of ABC's "Masada."
Slowly and haltingly, the movie attempts to trace the procedural history of the founding of the Christian church following the crucifixion. The details are dramatized so minimally and with so much rambling, muttered dialogue that the production soon bogs down in a kind of archaic trivia. Director Robert Day succeeded mainly in making every scene look and play at the same pokey gait.
Watching it is like wading through paper work and red tape, and the bone-dry visual monotony of the film -- lots of scenes in dingy grottos, with brown and gray the dominant colors -- is physically triesome. There are hardly any women in the cast; Jean Peters as Priscilla is the only actress in a principal role, and she's in few scenes.
In short, we have here a production with nothing to recommend it but piety, and it's piety of an awfully somber strain. P&G likes to sponsor squeaky-clean television, but Judas Priest! They've mistaken lifelessness for righteousness.
Anthony Hopkins plays Paul as a kind of musty academic, at his best when haranguing crowds or hecklers, at his worst when murmuring to himself like a man trying to recall the contents of a shopping list. He made a better Hitler (in "The Bunker"). Robert Foxworth as Peter blossoms in the story's later decades when all his hair goes to his chin and he sports a handsome beard.
Among the guest stars who pop up for little more than passing distraction are Jose Ferrer, Herbert Lom and Eddie Albert. Nero is played as something of a priss by Julian Fellowes, and Raymond Burr stalks imposingly through a couple of scenes as Herod I. Burr's hair is a Caesar salad of mischievous curls and his roles match the drapes. In fact, maybe his robes are the drapes.