• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    The Gospel Road on DVD

    I can't believe I've only just noticed this, but Johnny Cash's 1973 film The Gospel Road was released on DVD two weeks ago. I've actually never seen it. The VHS version went out of circulation a long time ago, and as it's supposedly more of a pseudo-documentary than a dramatic piece, I've never been sufficiently interested to pay what most sellers want for it. Clearly the success of Walk the Line has had an influence here, and the two films would make an interesting double feature as Cash found his faith very shortly after the events of that film.

    In addition to narrating the film, Cash also co-wrote it with Larry Murray. Jesus was played by director Robert Elfstrom who played "the real Jesus as he might have been according to the Christianity Today of 1973. The film cuts between location footage of Jerusalem, re-enacted scenes from Jesus's life, often intercut with shots of today's polluted environement. Kinnard and Davies ("Divine Images") consider that this "technique was weakened by constant repetition throughout the film".

    At the time Variety called it "an admirable musical documentary filmed in Israel, about the public life of Jesus Christ." Richard Corliss, in a Time article called "Jesus Christ Movie Star", says:
    As Cash intones the words, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased," it's easy to imagine that God just must have a Southern accent. The pauper-budgeted simplicity and naivete of "Gospel Road" — its irrefutable good intentions — overwhelm the weirdness of a movie in which the director (blue-eyed, blond-haired Robert Elfstrom) plays Jesus and the star's wife is Mary Magdalene.
    There's also a few interesting comments at The Magdalene Review, which discusses this film alongside Jesus Christ Superstar whihc was also 1973 (as was Godspell). Given that my birthday is coming up soon, I think I might have to add this to my birthday list.

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