Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I have to confess one of my major heresies--I find 99% of religious movies and quasi-religious movies incredibly campy; the exceptions being both versions of Ben Hur. (I especially love the chariot scene in the silent version). Even then, I still make fun of how incredibly non-lepromatous Judah Ben-Hur's mom and sister appear in both versions.

This has popped into my mind because I'm sitting here while a rerun of the 1965 flick "The Greatest Story Ever Told" is on Turner Classic Movies at the moment, which I refer to as "The Most Boring Story Ever Told." I've been so incredibly un-enamored with that one since childhood. If the real Jesus were as stiff and serious as Max von Sydow, He'd have had trouble snagging one disciple, let alone twelve. (I always felt bad for Max in this movie; he's a great actor but what was he thinkin' when he inked this gig?)

Now, it's not that this movie has its moments; I kind of groove on Donald Pleasance as the Devil. Claude Rains as Herod is not a bad choice, but Claude always had the gift of being a good actor in a bad movie. But overall, it's like the whole thrust for this film was "How many people that you would never cast in a Biblical epic can you cast in a Biblical epic?" John Wayne as a centurion with one line. Oh, gag me. (I'm expecting, "Let me tell you pilgrim, this hombre was the Son of God.") Jamie Farr as a disciple (Who's the Arab dude with the Twelve?). You even get a bit of a sneak peek for "Planet of the Apes" coming out a few years later b/c Roddy McDowall with his beard, as Matthew, looks suspiciously like Cornelius the scientific chimp, and Charlton Heston, as John the Baptist, has a lot of the look Taylor will have as a captive in "Apes."

I realize among the people who groove on religious movies, this movie still gets good press for it's cinematography and scene development, but even then, it's too "contrived" and "perfect" to do anything for me. How long did they have to look to get a snow white donkey for the Palm Sunday scene? The Last Supper scene is like they tried to recreate the painting, only in white. But I'm thinking, overall, if this were the "real" rendition of the story of Christ, Christianity would have been doomed because it would have bored the followers to death.

Years ago, I remember watching this movie in my pre-teen years on TV with my mom and making some comment about how boring this movie was and how goofy the casting was on this flick. I swear my mother dropped three steps back from me as if I'd be struck by lightning. "I can't believe you are making fun of a movie about Jesus! That's like...blasphemous or something! Shame on you!" (Ok, so I learned a valuable lesson. All the good works you ever did in your life will be totally tossed on the scrap heap if you dare to diss a movie about Jesus.)

It doesn't help that I have an awful tendency to start finding funny moments in serious movies. Flashback to when I went to see "The Passion of the Christ" a few years back. It was like I went on "Baptist Day" at the movie house. I got to laughing at how Fellini-oid the "albino Satan" was (I was expecting the albinos from "The Matrix" to show up any minute.) I was wonderfully amused at how disgusting Barabbas was, he reminded me of Keith Moon as "uncle Ernie" in the rock opera Tommy.

But back to The Most Boring Story Ever Told. Max's crucifixion has to go on record as "the least painful crucifixion I've ever seen on TV or at the movies". He doesn't even strain to breathe, while hung on a cross. Let's also not forget the overload of Mormon Tabernacle Choir soundtrack. Everyone in that movie is just too clean, too white robed, and too unrealistically well-groomed for Biblical times.

I'm beginning to think the best way to portray Jesus is how it was done in Ben-Hur fashion--just show His hands only or show Him from behind, and leave the rest to my imagination!


I'm a heretic too then!
Passolini, every time.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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