As Easter passed and big block busters are coming out for the summer I started thinking about one of my favorite genres and that is Biblical films. They have it all. Sweeping stories that are relatively straight forward. Great elements such as sword fights and huge crowd pleasing battles. And let’s not forget you know who is good and who is evil. OH! Often we know the end of the story but don’t mind re-watching them again. That’s how good they are.
Hollywood has used this one book as an endless source of societal interpretations since the 1890’s. There is a story for every occasion, problem or reason to be thankful. Silent or talkies. Black and white or color. Lots of special effects or bare bones shooting– these movies never fail to please, provoke emotion and make money.
One of my favorites is The Ten Commandments (1956) directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The talent line up is outstanding. Actors such as Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Vincent Price and of course Charlton Heston to name a few are all in this film. Head liners on their own all assembled in the same picture made it that much more layered. Watching it this time I really thought about certain scenes. One that is really amazing is the exodus scene where Moses (Charlton Heston) is leading the Hebrews out of slavery. Yes parting the sea was a big deal but the sheer magnitude of that parade leaving Egypt is breathless. Being shot on location always gives a film an organic feeling. Combining the location with the choreography and the camera made this a benchmark scene.
Mel Gibson’s controversal The Passions of the Christ (2004) is an excellent interpretation of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life. Another example of organic art. I had a physical reaction to this picture. As many did.
Growing up with these holiday movies is a fond memory. Today’s are just as exciting as yesterday’s. However if you want to watch some classical moral lessons you can’t beat the 50’s and 60’s. Films such as Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Samson & Delilah or Sodom & Gomorrah are ripe with intrigue, betrayal, sex, passion, and rock & roll.
Guess it’s true it is The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)