• 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


    Friday, July 14, 2006

    The King of Kings (1927) - Scene Guide

    This scene guide will be slightly different to normal as DeMille and his writer, Jeannie MacPherson, take a different approach to most Jesus films - different even to other silent films about the life of Christ. Whilst they build their plot as normal - primarily using stories out of the gospels - and also take the majority of their dialogue from the gospels, the words "spoken" are not infrequently from a different gospel story to that which is being shown. Hence, two sets of verses will be cited. Firstly, those in round brackets (like this) will refer to the episode being shown, and will follow my usual practice. Secondly, those verses in curly brackets {like this} will be the verses that form the dialogue, based on the intertitle cards which cite the relevant passage.

    [extra-biblical episode - Home of Mary Magdalene]
    [extra-biblical episode - Healing of Mark] - {Mark 2:1-2, John 9:16, 1 Pe 3:13}
    The 12 disciples - (Mark 3:16-19)
    [extra-bibical episode - Healing a blind girl] - {Mark 3:2, John 12:46, Luke 8:39}
    Exorcism of Mary Magdalene - (Luke 8:2) - {Matt 7:7, 8:3, 5:8}
    The Plot against Jesus - (John 11:45-53) - {John 12:19, 5:18, Matt v21:46, John 7:47}
    Woman Caught in Adultery - (John 8:2-11) - {John 8:4-5, 7, Luke 18:11, John 8:10,11,11}
    Jesus and the Children - (Mark 10:13-16) - {Luke 8:1, Mark 10:14}
    Raising of Lazarus - (John 11:17-44) - {John 11:21-22, 23, 17, 25, 43, 44}
    Cleansing the Temple - (Mark 11:15-16) - {John 2:14, 16, Mark 11:15, Matt 21:23, 13, John 2:19}
    Triumphal Entry - (Mark 11:1-11) - {Luke 19:37, Mark 11:10, John 14:6, Luke 19:38}
    Attempt to crown Jesus King - (John 6:14-15) - {John 6:15}
    Temptation of Jesus - (Matt 4:1-11) - {Matt 4:8, 9, Luke 4:8, John 18:36, Matt 6:9-10}
    Judas agrees to Betray Jesus - (Mark 14:1-2, 10-11) - {Matt 26:14-15, Mark 14:2}
    Last Supper - (Mark 14: 12-31) - {Luke 22:19, Matt 26:27-28, John 13:33-34, Luke 22:21, John 13:27, Matt 26:22, John 16:33, Matt 20:28}
    Gethsemane - (Mark 14:32-50) - {Matt 26:36, 38-36(sic.), Luke 22:42, 44, Matt 26:40-41, 42, John 17:1-4, Matt 26:48, 49, Luke 22:48, Matt 26:51, 55, John 18:8}
    Trial before Pilate - (John 18:28-38) - (Mark 15:1, Luke 23:2, 3, John 19:10, 18:37, 38, Luke 23:14-22, Matt 27:20, Ps 15:5)
    Mocking and Scourging - (John 19:1-3)
    2nd Trial before Pilate - (John 19:4-16) - {Matt 27:18, John 18:39, Luke 23:18, Matt 27:22, Mark 15:14, John 19:15, Matt 27:24, Matt 27:4}
    Road to the Cross - (Luke 23:26-32) - {Luke 23:32, Mark 15:21}
    Crucifixion - (Mark 15:21-32) - {Luke 23:33, Mark 15:23, Matt 27:42, Luke 23:34, 39, 40-41, 42, 43, Matt 27:45, 43
    Judas Hangs Himself - (Matt 27:5)
    Death of Jesus - (Mark 15:33-41) - {Luke 23:46, Matt 27:51, Mark 15:39, Matt 27:51}
    [extra-biblical episode - Resurrection]
    Appearance to Mary - (John 20:11-17) - {John 20:11, 15, 13, 16, 16, 17, Matt 28:6}
    Appearance to Disciples - (John 20:19-29) - {John 20:19, 19, Luke 24:39. John 20:28, 29, 21:17, Mark 16:15)
    [extra-biblical episode - "modern" day ending] - {Matt 28:20}
    Firstly, the above guide is based on the shorter version of the film (112 minutes) which has been available on NTSC VHS for a number of years, and until recently was the only version on general release. I believe this is the version that has now been released on DVD in the UK (although different retailers claim different things). However, in America there is now a 2 disc version of this film available which contains both this shorter cut (which I believe was not released until 1928), and the longer original release which ran to 155 minutes. Peter Chattaway reviewed the Criterion 2-disc release for Christianity Today back in 2004 and listed the following scenes that were cut from the version I am familiar with:
    For those familiar only with the shorter version of the film, the original, longer version is a revelation. Most significantly, it enhances the role of Judas, and his efforts to exploit the ministry of Christ for political purposes. The original film also suggests it was Judas who tried to cast a demon out of a possessed boy but failed, presumably because he wasn't a "real" disciple, before Jesus came along and did the job properly (Mark 9:14-29).

    Other roles are enhanced, too. The Virgin Mary comforts the mother of one of the thieves at Calvary, and can now be seen directing Jesus's attention to Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb; Pilate's wife (Majel Coleman) makes an appearance; and the scene in which Peter (Ernest Torrence) denies Christ has been fully restored. In keeping with DeMille's creative rearranging of biblical stories, the longer film also includes a sequence that brilliantly combines the conversion of the tax collector Matthew (Mark 2:14), the exchange in which Jesus advocates paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), and the episode in which Jesus pays the Temple tax with a coin that Peter finds inside the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17:24-27)
    . He also notes how not only is the colour technique used for the resurrection scene at the end of the film, but it is also used for the scene in Mary Magdalene's house at the start of the film.

    Secondly, another guide to this film is included in Stern, Jefford and Debona's "Savior on the Silver Screen". However, I was surprised to find such a large number of differences between their account and mine. I think there must have been a typesetting error at their end as they jump from Jesus blessing the little children to Gethsemane and the trial before Pilate, and then back to the raising of Lazarus and the cleansing of the temple. I did wonder whether they were reviewing the longer cut, but they don't mention the changes Peter highlights, nor does the flow of their narrative (no matter whether you read it columns then pages, or the other way around). However, it is also interesting to notice that we come up with different sets of verses. I think this is possibly because they are more interested in allusions from the gospels, whereas I'm more interested in the portrayal of incidents from the gospels.

    Finally, it's interesting to see how this film compares with the gospels it harmonises. DeMille both blends the gospels fairly closely, and conversely does away with chunks of them in favour of his own interpretation and re-contextualisation. But which gospel portrait does it most closely resemble? One obvious pointer is that the film excludes Jesus's childhood (like the gospels of Mark and John). Like DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923) before it the film is not concerned with its central figure's character development, emotions, or inner thoughts. This is a fully developed Jesus remote from human experience from the start. This would be a more Johannine portrait than a synoptic one. If we take a closer look at the scenes we find that of the four key biblical episodes shown prior to the Last Supper (Woman Caught in Adultery, Raising of Lazarus, Cleansing of the Temple and the Triumphal entry) two are solely from John, and the other two are in both John and the synoptics. Furthermore, the trial scenes most closely resemble John with the scourging seeming to be Pilate's attempt to placate the crowd yet save Jesus's life. Finally, the only scenes following Jesus' resurrection are John's accounts of Mary finding the risen Jesus, and his appearance to the disciples with Thomas's confession.

    Labels: , , , ,


    • At 3:34 pm, November 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      this is Roger ...
      hey nice to get such information ...
      can u plz direct me as to where i can download this movie ...

      Plz reply on roger.kekhlekar@gmail.com

    • At 5:40 pm, December 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Dear Matt,

      You're writing about 1927 King
      of Kings with length 155 minutes.
      I my self have downloaded this
      film from www.veoh.com and it
      has a couple of colored scenes
      [Home of Mary Magdalene, Ressurection of Christ] and it
      has length of 157 : 10 minutes.


    Post a Comment

    << Home