This is apparent right from the off with a striking, 60s title sequence not dissimilar to many Hollywood productions of the time. Unusually the film opts to start with Jesus already on the road to Golgotha struggling under the weight of a full cross. But as Simon of Cyrene is pressed into action the camera focusses instead on Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who decide to retreat from the crowds to study what light Isaiah 53 may have to shed on the events they are witnessing. At this stage neither of the two is a follower of Jesus, but they are both intrigued by Jesus and trying to fit all that they have seen into their world-view.
The publicity for this film really emphasises this part of the film, but after less than 9 minutes it's more or less finished, as the camera arrives at Golgotha to witness the prosecution. Whilst the first shot (above) is a little out of focussed it's very nicely composed. It's noticeable as well that Jesus and the two men crucified with him are only a little higher than the crowd witnesses Jesus' execution. This is actually more accurate than the majority of films about Jesus: those being crucified tended to be more or less at eye level with those witnessing the crucifixion, rather than high above them as per the majority of Jesus film.
It's also one of the few films about Jesus to include all 7 of the phrases the gospels record Jesus as saying from the cross. Having witnessed Jesus' death we also get the traditional proclamation from a Roman centurion, before the camera returns to Nicodemus and Joseph who are now convinced that Jesus is who he (apparently) claimed to be. "Only the Son of God could have died like that". That's one of those phrases that seems quite dated nowadays. These days it's more widely accepted that claiming to be the/s "son of God" was not as unique a claim and many took it for.
Joseph heads off to arrange Jesus' burial and so the next scene takes us into Joseph's garden where a small battalion of soldiers are grumbling about having to keep an eye on Jesus' tomb. These scenes are rather mixed. There's a great shot of the soldiers around the campfire, but when the tomb is shaken open the special effects are really not very special. As the film's title suggests it is the scenes on Sunday morning which really take precedence here. The poorly executed moment when the tomb opens comes at the end of a fairly lengthy conversation between the Roman guards, again a moment that is not covered very often by films about Jesus.
There then follows one of the most extensive selections of episodes from after Jesus' resurrection that I'm aware of - perhaps, even, on a par with The Miracle Maker. It makes a reasonable effort to harmonise the accounts from the four gospels, even if that means occasionally doing things like keeping the voice that first speaks to the women off camera so it's not clear whether they are being spoken to by one man (Mark), an angel (Matt) or two men (Luke), or if it's Jesus himself. It's also interesting that Peter claims to have met Jesus as well, a clear nod to 1 Cor 15:5. Finally Jesus ends, rather strangely, with the words from John 14:27.
So for various reasons this is an interesting addition to the canon and certainly not the dry proof-texting I was inspecting from the film's description. Sadly the producers, Concordia Films, didn't make many more film, but the actor who played Jesus - Jason Evers - went on to star in a string of classic 80s TV programmes including The A-Team, Dukes of Hazard, CHiPS, Knight Rider and Murder She Wrote. Essentially, if it was popular with boys my age early on Saturday evening, it appears that Evers must have been in it at some point.
I'll be reviewing the other films on this disc over the next few weeks. (Please note I was sent a copy of the disc to review).
Labels: Gospel Films Archive