• 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


    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Films About Joshua

    I've revisted this subject, given it more thought and totally rewritten it, including covering more films, here.
    I had an email asking me about films featuring Joshua, and so I thought I would post up an expanded version of my reply.

    The most famous appearance of Joshua in the movies is John Derek's portrayal of him in DeMille's 1956 version of The Ten Commandments (pictured above). In many ways however Derek is playing a semi-fictional character. Joshua is only an occasional character in Exodus. Whilst later books significantly develop his character we're told precious little of his early life. DeMille invents a good deal, but the film itself has little to say about the man who conquered Canaan.

    But aside from this incarnation, the book of Joshua is largely ignored in Bible films. It's perhaps not surprising given it's difficult subject matter. The only live action dramatic version I am familiar with is the Joshua at Jericho, from the Greatest Heroes of the Bible series. I discussed this film at some length then. It's a particularly interesting example of how Bible films distort the original text to make the stories they portray more palatable. So this film talks about Jericho being controlled by ruthless Hittites who committed human sacrifices; various ethically dubious acts are shown occurring inside the city; Jericho's king is annoying, childish, overweight, whining and ultra camp; whilst the head of the army is proud, stubborn and arrogant. There's even a scene where the Hittites steal the Israelites' children in order to sacrifice them to their gods. In essence, the film does everything it possibly can to demonise the residents of Jericho and paint them in a negative light. The portrayal of the Israelites in the Bible is hardly balanced, but it is much more shades of grey. We're told little of the Canaanites other than that they worship the wrong Gods and that they possess the land assigned for Israel. The changes made to the film polarise the respective camps into shades black and white, such that it's almost impossible to feel sympathy for the residents of Jericho who's major crime is living in the wrong place.

    This film is still only available on VHS, but there are copies at Amazon.

    Otherwise, all there is is a four cartoon versions. I'm familiar with three of these series, though unfortunately not the episodes in question. The Greatest Heroes and Legends in the Bible is best known for featuring Charlton Heston's voice, and as you might expect it plays it fairly safe, with no cartoony gimmicks. That contrasts quite strongly with the Greatest Adventure Stories of the Bible series by Hannah-Barbera which frames each episode with a Quantum Leap-esque linking story introducing the gang of modern day children who will experience these events first hand. I call these stories the Scooby Doo versions because several of the quirks of that series have been reused here.

    Then there's the Beginners Bible version which is linked to the children's Bible of the same name. I've not yet worked out which of these came first, but both sanitise the text often introducing banal elements into the bargain. I discussed the Daniel entry in this series a couple of years ago as well.

    Lastly, there's also this film that turned up searching Amazon, but there's little to go on.

    That said, Joshua does feature in some of the documentary films about the Bible. I don't, at present, have time to list them all, but I know there's a good deal of coverage of this story in The Bible's Buried Secrets which I reviewed last year and which is currently available to buy.

    Other than that, there's not much to go on. I suspect, however, that the story might make a fleeting appearance in The God Complex, and that it may not be long before we see a subversive version of this film, which portrays Joshua as a villain. Who knows?

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    • At 12:30 am, August 29, 2009, Blogger All Sufficiency Ministries ....... ( © A.D. MMXII ) said…


      There's also a TV series with a live-action time-travel episode on Joshua -- THE TIME TUNNEL: THE WALLS OF JERICHO (1967) -- which can be viewed on IMDb at http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi1942552601/ or Hulu at http://www.hulu.com/watch/12627/the-time-tunnel-the-walls-of-jericho . It can also be downloaded from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000N5H6EU .


    • At 1:03 am, August 29, 2009, Blogger All Sufficiency Ministries ....... ( © A.D. MMXII ) said…

      Another TV version of Joshua was portrayed by David Kirk Chambers as featured in the docu-drama TV special ANCIENT SECRETS OF THE BIBLE (1992) -- see IMDb at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435557/ .

      The Joshua segment is available on DVD from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Secrets-Bible-Jericho-Tumble/dp/6305239371/ .

    • At 2:28 pm, September 01, 2009, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Great, thanks for those tip offs. Matt


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