Monday, April 6, 2020

Movie Review: "The King of Kings" (1927)


The King of Kings

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Screenplay: Jeannie Macpherson

Cinematographer: J. Peverell Marley, F.J. Westerberg

Starring: H.B. Warner as Jesus

Production company: Pathé Exchange

Country: United States

Initial release: April 19, 1927

Run Time: 155 minutes

Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings is the first truly Hollywood blockbuster film about Jesus, and it is both epic and spectacular. Following DeMille's other spectacular biblical film, The Ten Commandments, in 1923, and before his epic story of the persecution of the early Christians, The Sign of the Cross, in 1932, The King of Kings, released in 1927, premiered at the grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in its original 155-minute cut, though it was widely released with the 112-minute cut. I have not seen the latter, but just finished the longer cut version, and all I can say is that this is perhaps one of the best film versions of the life of Jesus, if not the very best of them.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Movie Review: "Intolerance" (1916)


Intolerance

Director: D. W. Griffith

Screenplay: D. W. Griffith

Cinematographer: Billy Bitzer

Starring: Howard Gaye as Jesus

Production company: Triangle Distributing Corporation

Initial release: September 5, 1916

Run Time: 197 Min

Director D.W. Griffith is perhaps most know for his groundbreaking but controversial film The Birth of a Nation (1915), but his follow up Intolerance (1916) (which can be seen perhaps partly as a response to accusations of perpetuating racial stereotypes and glorifying the Klu Klux Klan in The Birth of a Nation) is considered by many to be his masterpiece, and indeed the greatest film of the whole silent era. Griffiths mammoth film, also subtitled: "A Sun-Play of the Ages" and "Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages.", consists of four distinct but parallel stories that demonstrated mankind's intolerance during four different ages in world history. Intolerance was a colossal undertaking filled with monumental sets, lavish period costumes, and more than 3,000 extras.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Movie Review: "The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ" (1906)


The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ

a.k.a. La vie du Christ

Director: Alice Guy-Blaché

Screenplay: Alice Guy-Blaché

Cinematographer: Anatole Thiberville

Costume Design and Production Design: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset

Starring: Unknown

Production company: Gaumont

Initial release: 1906

Run Time: 33 Min

Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female film director, wrote and directed this 1906 French film about Jesus from his birth to resurrection in 25 scenes. This early extravaganza film had over 100 extras and in 1906 was the biggest hit that French filmmaking had ever seen. It was Gaumont Film Company's big blockbuster. At the time this film was made, it's director/producer, Alice Guy, was also the head of Gaumont film production. She used the illustrated Tissot Bible as reference material for the film. Most scenes in this early film have all the action taking place in front of a still camera. However, one scene "Climbing Golgotha", includes an early innovative sweeping pan shot. It is also one of the first films to have actors walking in and out of screen.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Movie Review: "From the Manger to the Cross"; a.k.a. "Jesus of Nazareth" (1912)


From the Manger to the Cross

A.K.A.: Jesus of Nazareth

Director: Sidney Olcott

Producer: Frank J. Marion

Writer: Gene Gauntier

Cinematography: George K. Hollister

Starring: Robert Henderson-Bland as Jesus

Year: 1912

Duration: 71'

From the Manger to the Cross was a marvel of its day. First, it was filmed on location in Egypt and Palestine; second, the production cost $100,000; and third, because of its length of five reels, when two reels were still common, making this the first feature film about Jesus. The title of the film captures the story from beginning to end. It begins with the Birth of Christ and ends with the Crucifixion. When on the cross, Jesus drops his head, the words from John 3:16 appear on the screen with three crosses on the horizon, and the film ends. There is no Resurrection or Ascension scene.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Mary Shelley as a Philhellene


By John Sanidopoulos

In the summer of 1816 Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin traveled to Switzerland in order to meet Lord Byron. The meeting had been engineered by Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who had been Byron’s mistress in London and who was pregnant with his child. At this point Byron had lost interest in Claire yet in Percy Shelley he found a great friend. Byron and the (future) Shelleys rented houses in close proximity on the shores of Lake Geneva and spent much time together that very rainy summer, socializing together in the evenings and exploring local sites of interest during the day.

The summer in Geneva also inspired Shelley’s lover, and later wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. One rainy evening as the company was sitting around the fire, reading aloud German ghost stories, Byron challenged each person present to write their own ghostly tale. Shortly afterwards, in a waking dream, Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein, the story of a scientist who brings life to a likeness of man with disastrous consequences. Completed when she was still only 19 years old, the novel, which was first published anonymously, has never since gone out of print.