Friday, February 9, 2007


Cecil B. DeMille's epic retelling of the Jesus story is a devotional film that's faithful to the source material. It's probably best appreciated by believers, but non-christian movie buffs and film historians will also want to give it a look.

The Criterion Collection has restored the original 2 1/2 hour "roadshow" version, and the Bright Lights Film Journal has an excellent review of this DVD. (thanks to BLFJ for these photos too)


Although it wasn't the first movie about the life of Jesus, it was certainly the biggest at the time. It was promoted, successfully, as an event movie, and ended up becoming the highest grossing movie in history at the time.

The movie had undeniable mass appeal; I haven't found any indication that this movie was controversial in any way. Why would an overtly religious movie be so universally accepted? Was it because religion, specifically Christianity, was so ubiquitous that there was almost nobody to disapprove? Or maybe religion was so separate from public life that non-Christian didn't feel threatened by it? America was, at the time, in the midst of Prohibition (a decidedly religion-based movement), so the former seems a more likely theory than the latter.


When you list the most significant movies of 1927, you'd probably list Metropolis, Sunrise, The General, Berlin, The Lodger, It, Chang, and perhaps a half dozen others before King of Kings. Why did it's stock plummet so steeply? Perhaps it's because the story has been told a dozen times since - with sound and in color.

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