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The Bible and the Epics

by Maureen May

For many years when looking for a sure fire hit, film makers turned to the Bible. As a result a lot of truly classic films were born, with great casting, wonderous sets and stunning live action sequences. There were also some epic mistakes- serious miscasting and barely recognizable interpretations. Now I know you can find these perennial favourites on t.v. espcially as Easter approaches but why not watch them commercial free, and at a time of your choosing. And if you have a large screen with surround sound you're in for a treat.

Grand daddy of them all - Ben Hur. This is one of my favourite movies of all time and I would not be exaggerating if I said I have seen it 30 times (at 3 hours and 32 minutes that's a lot of Ben!). And I've had the joy of seeing it on the big screen. The sets are real- no CGI's here and the chariot race really is Chuck and Stephen Boyd tearing around the track. Still considered one of the greatest action sequences ever captured, the race took 3 months to film and used 15000 extras on the largest set ever built (see the picture- that's a set - with real people- and I can't get the whole thing to fit!). It won 11 Oscars, equaled only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy- and think of all the CGI in those films. It is a brilliant movie.

Spartacus- Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons (not the lead singer of Kiss- the other Jean Simmons!). This was made the year after Ben Hur as compensation to Douglas for being turned down in favour of Heston for Ben Hur (Kirk was offered Messala in Ben Hur but did not want to play second banana). Again a cast of 1000's (10,000 plus for the battle scene). Co-produced by Douglas, he got so many great actors to appear in smaller roles by showing them each a different script that emphasized their character over the others.

 The 10 Commandments- again with Charlton Heston- this time playing Moses, and Yul Bryner as Ramses. This is a movie that has so many truly epic scenes-parting of the Red Sea/erecting the giant obelisk- it is hard to count. This is also one of the most financially successful movies ever made- adjusting for inflation its North American box office revenue is around $977 million. It is grandiose. We have over 20 new copies coming shortly.

We also have a good animated offering of the Moses story. From 1998- Prince of Egypt. And while we are on animated stories there is also 2000's Joseph, King of Dreams. Also the charming Veggie Tales, which convey moral themes based on Christianity.

The Robe- Richard Burton and Jean Simmons again, in the imagined tale of the Roman centurion who comes into posession of Christ's robe after His crucifixion.

Quo Vadis- Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov doing a wonderfully mad Nero.

The Passion of The Christ- this is Mel Gibson's bloody, violent and to my mind over the top re-telling of the crucifixion. Of course crucifixion was bloody and violent and most movies do sanitize it, but Gibson seems to relish it. I recommend it with reservations and mostly because it was so popular and controversial at the time of its release. Heads up- for authenticity Gibson has everyone speaking Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew with English sub-titles. Completly financed by Gibson (at around $30 million) it made him a fortune-best estimations are around $580,000,000.00.

Greatest Story ever Told- anyone who was anyone in 1965 seems to have been in this movie. Not the best retelling, but worth a look.

Jesus Christ Superstar---is one of the very first rock operas by the wonderful team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. First staged on Broadway in 1971 it too was highly controversial. A musical about the crucifixion-what were they thinking? I think it works.

Jesus of Montreal- by Canadian director Denys Arcand and on Mel's must have list when stranded on a desert island.

by Moe