• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Decent Films Reviews The Greatest Story Ever Told

    Over at Decent Films, my friend Steven D. Greydanus has just posted a great review of Greatest Story Ever Told. It's actually one film I've not posted a written review for yet, although I did record a podcast review for the film last year. I've heard Steven talk many times about the unintentionally hilarious baptism scene, but it's nice to hear him extolling some of the film's other virtues.

    In trying to source some photos for this blog entry I also came across a review at thecinemalaser.com . I also just discovered that there was a 2001 documentary about the making of this film called He Walks in Beauty: The George Stevens Production 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'.



    • At 6:14 pm, March 28, 2008, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • At 6:15 pm, March 28, 2008, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      Just thought I'd let you know that the "He Walks in Beauty" doc was featured on and probably produced for this 2-disc edition of the film: http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Story-Ever-Told/dp/B000056H24/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1206727533&sr=1-2

      This is a U.S. release, though. There's a Region 2 edition listed here:

      But it is unclear from the listing whether this is a UK release of the 2-disc edition or not, so buyer beware.

      It's a great doc, though, and if you have a region-free DVD player, I highly recommend it!

    • At 9:56 pm, March 28, 2008, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks Kevin,

      For some reason I only bought the one disc version of this - I think it was a while ago though. I was going to mention that the doc is available on the 2 disc DVD, but it wasn't entirely clear from the amazon website. Do you own it (and are thererfore able to confirm this?).


    • At 3:12 pm, March 29, 2008, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      Yes! I do own the 2-disc DVD and the documentary is there. I haven't seen it in a while, but I found it very informative and interesting when I did. In fact, I cited it in my thesis, which is probably why I recognized the title.

    • At 1:43 am, May 10, 2008, Blogger Tom SVDP said…

      It makes me curious about what is hilarious with the baptism scene, I've seen it but I don't remember that scene, I also have the book which is good reading.

      I just read Steven D. Greydanus' review today and I think he made very pertinent points. When I see the Last Supper scene, it is that famous painting coming to life and it does seem very reverent. The decent movies reviewer said the movie was made in the Southwest US; so, I guess this documentary accompanying the DVD version tells us that.

      With a bit of humor I'd think, a reviewer at Amazon wrote "The greatest movie ever made" for his heading! I'm glad this movie is getting the recognition it deserves.

    • At 9:53 am, May 12, 2008, Blogger Matt Page said…

      It's the bit where Heston starts forcibly baptising the Roman soldiers who have come to arrest time, I think. I've heard Steven discuss this before.


    • At 6:07 am, April 10, 2010, Anonymous Michael said…

      Hi Matt,

      What a cool blog you have!

      It seems that the UK does a better job of showing Biblical movies on TV than Australia (where I live). In the '80s, I could pretty much count on Biblical movies being shown at Easter and Christmas (on more than one channel), but in the last few years, it might be one documentary on Good Friday and not much more.

      I have only just started an interest in Biblical films, and wow, I didn't think there would be a website that collects so many films into one convenient blog, but now I know exactly where to come for my information.

      I ordered The Greatest Story Ever Told off eBay on Easter Monday and am impatiently waiting for it to be delivered. I've been reading different reviews on the internet as well as the 4-minute trailer on YouTube. Now I've listened to your podcast, and I like your point that younger people will be less distracted by the cameos than older people. I don't watch many Hollywood films, so I wouldn't recognise many names or faces. That's why I'm looking forward to it; I won't get distracted by that, so I can really focus on the characters instead of the actors. I hear so much about John Wayne's part as well.

      I'll have to keep visiting your blog since there is plenty of information to read, but as a first-time visitor I hope you can keep it going.

    • At 7:18 am, April 10, 2010, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Hi Michael thank you for your comment and your kind remarks. I'm glad you have found the site helpful. Let me know what you make of Greatest Story. It's a film that produces a wide range of responses so I'm always keen to hear what people think.


    • At 9:37 am, April 26, 2010, Blogger Michael said…

      Hi Matt,

      Here's what I thought - with the actors, I didn't recognise any faces, except Telly Savalas, who I thought did a decent part, especially scenes of him pondering on something or listening to others. Max von Sydow's accent and delivery were good, sort of what I'd expect from a film Jesus. I thought Charlton Heston played a powerful John the Baptist, more powerful than he seems in the Bible - the forced baptism scene was a shock, but funny, original and reinforcing his passion with everyone repenting.

      Plotwise, I thought it would have been better to begin the movie with more context i.e. Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and Jews submitting to pagan rule etc. The various filmed miracles had convinced onlookers he was the Messiah, but the film didn't link this fulfilment too distinctly.

      For the most part, I thought the film-type script embellishments were good. The most memorable was the man in the synagogue unable to walk, when he said back to Jesus "are you mocking me?" I also like Jesus appreciating the complimenting of his name by Little James.

      The cinematography, sets and landscapes were impressive, but some landscapes were too Grand Canyonish for Palestine, so it took away the authenticity. Also, the temptation of Jesus by Satan seemed to fall short - the kingdoms of the world would have looked more tempting if they were shown in daylight. Judas' fiery suicide may have worked on a symbolic level, but I feel Biblical accuracy was more important for this scene.

      Unlike others, I didn't have any problems with the length of the film; interesting how the DVD has an intermission screen...

      And yes, John Wayne's line was a bit flat and unconvincing.

      Overall, I suppose it's an OK film - good but not great. It lacked that something that great movies would have. I don't have much else to compare it with, but I sense there are better films around - now I can hunt out other DVDs based on your blog.

    • At 11:43 am, April 26, 2010, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks for taking the time to record your reactions to the film here Michael. Much appreciated.

      I've reviewed what I consider the main Jesus films on my podcast, but there are hundreds of them so you can only go so far(!). Perhaps they might help you work out what to try next.



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