To escape sinful impulses, Ben Harvey, a callow youth, leaves his small town for Chicago in 1910. A pickpocket promptly relieves him of his money, and he nearly starves before Queen Lil ... See full summary »
Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical spectacular, containing the story of the last few days of Jesus. In this version of the film, the director has decided to put a twist and make everything modern and high-tec.
Based on a concept album project written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and the subsequent long-running Broadway performance, this film tells the story of the final 6 days in the life of Jesus Christ through the troubled eyes of Judas Iscariot. Too often mis-labeled a musical, this film is a "rock opera." There are no spoken lines, everything is sung. Written by
Ralf Southard <email@example.com>
Tragedy almost struck for real while the Crucifixion was being filmed. The Roman soldier we see nailing Christ to the cross is an Israeli actor who spoke very limited English; consequently, he thought Ted Neeley was actually supposed to have nails hammered through his hands! Just in time, director Norman Jewison saw what was happening and screamed, "NO! NOT IN THE HAND!" See more »
After Jesus finds his apostles asleep, the camera cranes up next to the leaves of a tree. At one point (about 1:00:48 on the DVD) one of the tree twigs swings back and forth rather unnaturally, indicating that the camera has brushed against it in the process of going by. See more »
This film represents all that Andrew Lloyd Webber is capable of: taking an old and complex subject and using a stellar rock score to look at it from a modern perspective. How strange it is that the most powerful epic of Christ's life should turn out to be this rock opera. This is probably because the main characters are expressed in modern terms of thinking. The best aspect of this film may be its portrayal of Judas Iscariot. Many films have tried to find a reason why Judas betrayed his master and mentor for thirty pieces of silver. However, all of them have been pretty much making up their own stories: Judas wanted to get Jesus
to use his powers against the Romans, Judas wanted to save his family. All
these have been just very big guesses. However, this film is probably the
closest to the truth about Judas. His reason is a more psychological one. He is simply worried that Jesus' teachings will get him arrested by the Romans, and that they will be turned into propaganda, like they are today. He is also just doubtful that Jesus is the Messiah (wouldn't you be if someone told you?) Jesus himself is portrayed as a dedicated spiritual leader, and his followers are looked at largely from his and Judas' perspective. The scene with Simon Zealotes, with followers throwing themselves at Jesus' feet in the dust is meant to make them look almost pathetically worshipping this man. To Jesus, his own Apostles are like children, pestering him about what his plans are for the future. Then, of course, there is the film's portrayal of Mary Magdalene as Jesus' lover. As she rubs ointment on Jesus' feet, you can sense the deep passion moving between
them. Jesus is human, and must, therefore, love. The priests and pharisees are shown as worried about Jesus' influence, fearing it will turn into a revolution, and Pontius Pilate is shown as a faithful politician, trying to do what is right, but pulled away from it by the people demanding Jesus' death. Just the title of this movie is enough to put some people away from it. But the title makes Jesus more modern, because, probably to people at the time, Jesus
seemed like just a passing fad. Maybe this was what Jesus thought too. In this respect, Jesus may have had doubts about whether he could really make any
difference, and if he would be remembered, or if his followers were really just hungry for the next big thing. The film's setting in the Israeli ruins gives the film an almost surreal look, which is furthered by the design of the film, a stark mixture of ancient and modern, which is so well done it is sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. This serves to point out the similarities between then and now. The film's greatest point moves through the score and the cast. Carl Anderson makes Judas almost unplayable by anyone else. Ted Neeley, while his voice
may not be perfect, has an amazing delivery, and brings new depth to Jesus
with his rendition of "Gethsemane." Yvonne Elliman is remarkably soulful as
Mary Magdalene, and Bob Bingham's low, gravelly bass voice cuts chillingly
through the more serious scenes, helped along by Kurt Yahjigan's falsetto as
Annas. Barry Dennen is a remarkable Pilate, and Josh Mostel makes King
Herod, the Jewish puppet ruler, look remarkably petty and foolish, yet funny in his ragtime burlesque style song. The film also contains Andrew Lloyd Webber's richest score, especially at the end, bringing out the suffering of Jesus. The sound distorts the soldiers laughter, mixing with the vultures crying, and the cross creaking, the hammer pounding in the nails, and the rattle of dice as they gamble for Jesus' clothes, and the sobbing of Mary Magdalene. Jesus voice
remains normal, and his death ends the film, making this, in my opinion, the
most powerful and moving and maybe most accurate version of the Passion.
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