Bible on the Big Screen: A Guide from Silent Films to Today's Moviesby J. Stephen Lang
Pub. Date: 08/01/2007
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Hollywood has been producing biblical movies for over a century. Starting with mini-Passion stories from the 1890s, bestselling author J. Stephen Lang takes readers through blockbusters and busts, miniseries and Mel Gibson, covering film plots and characters based on the Bible. More than just a list, The Bible on the Big Screen gives movie buffs film credits,
Hollywood has been producing biblical movies for over a century. Starting with mini-Passion stories from the 1890s, bestselling author J. Stephen Lang takes readers through blockbusters and busts, miniseries and Mel Gibson, covering film plots and characters based on the Bible. More than just a list, The Bible on the Big Screen gives movie buffs film credits, running times, and release dates and answers intriguing questions about motives for making the movies, critics' reactions, and much more. It also offers a comprehensive filmography with a chronological listing of all biblical movies ever made, and if they are available on video.
- Baker Publishing Group
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Some things never change, since biblical movies were generating controversy back in the 1920s, according to this book, which begins in the 1890s with some really brief silent films and continues on to the present time. Along the way it gives a review of each film, who starred in it, directed, etc., how the public and critics liked it (or hated it). Looks like a movie based on the Bible is bound to offend someone, and sometimes that led to profit, sometimes not. There is a kind of impish sense of humor here, not mocking the Bible, but sorta mocking critics who review movies but don't bother to ask 'Does it stick to the source material?' The best chapters in my opinion deal with the really controversial things like Last Temptation of Christ. I work with kids in my church, sometimes we have movie nights, so this gave me some ideas about which movies would be good in a church setting. This would be good reference for pastors and other church workers.
We all remember how much controversy, and profit, Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ generated. Well, according to this book, there's nothing new under the sun--back in the 1920s, Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings was both controversial and profitable. And guess what, there were three movie titled Passion of the Christ released in the 1890s! I was expecting this book to be just a list of biblical films, along with cast and credits, but there is much more here, because the entry on each book runs several pages, looking at how the movie was (or most often was NOT) faithful to the source (the Bible), what prompted the writers and directors, how the critics and public reacted, etc. While the main subject here is movies based on the Bible, the book is kind of a concise history of movies in general, and of the broader pop culture as well. There was a definite 'Golden Age' of biblical movies, the 1950s, launched by DeMille's cheesy (but watchable)Samson and Delilah in late 1949. This was the decade that produced The Biggy, DeMille's famous The Ten Commandments. Things began to slip in the 1960s with quickie cheapies coming out of Italy, then the 1970s gave us tripe like The Passover Plot and Jesus Christ Superstar. The book concludes with the last theatrical film, The Nativity Story from late 2006. There are lots of little gems along the way, notably some quotations from DeMille's autobiography and the memoirs of Charlton Heston and director-actor John Huston. The book also provides lots of gossippy little anecdotes, such as the scriptwriter for King of Kings and The Ten Commandments being DeMille's mistress, or the script for the 1985 disaster King David (with Richard Gere) having to be rewritten because it sounded 'too biblical.' The book has some photos, wish it had more. But it is a darn good read. I'm guessing it was written for a religious audience, but I think anyone into movies and pop culture would enjoy it as well. For the dedicated movie buff, this is a must read.