Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) Poster

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Carl is the real KING.
IAN BAKER5 September 2004
I saw this film for the first time in the mid 70's at a cinema on a school organised outing, I remember being peeved as it was being shown on TV for the first time the same evening. I was aware of one or two of the songs but I had never heard the original concept album before hand so I really had no idea what to expect. I was transfixed from the Overture to the End Titles and probably have not had a more moving experience watching a film since. I have been a devoted fan of this film now for over 25 years and still find the occasional viewing moving. The film was unique, the first Rock Opera given the Big Screen treatment and this is still in my opinion the best of its genre. Of course the Music and Lyrics are the fulcrum of the film and the numerous album recordings are still popular now because the songs are so unforgettable but the performances of all the principle characters in this original film version give this interpretation a dynamic edge. All the cast probably give their definitive performances but without any doubt Carl Anderson as Judas is the real KING. Rest In Peace. For all you long term fans like me get the new Region 1 DVD special edition with improved sound and picture quality and extras especially the commentary with Norman and Ted- you'll cry your heart out. Thanks Carl, I will never forget the impact your performance has made on my life. Thank you ALW, Tim Rice and Norman Jewison for an unforgettable Spiritual experience.
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My two cents...
powasp12 July 2001
I've heard much criticism of this film over many years, and the most annoying criticism is that it didn't have the vitality of the stage productions back "in the day". There isn't much many of us can do about that, though I did see a road production of it about 7 or 8 years ago.

The most interesting thing about this film is that it was set in "modern" times, rather than in biblical times. Roman soldiers wearing shiny helmets, and carrying machine guns is a real attention grabber. The ruins used in the film added another fascinating aspect to the production. In short, the anachronistic approach in the visuals, the lyrics, and the music itself make this a genuinely unique, and clever film.

I thought all the acting, singing, and dancing was great, and still appears to be rather fresh and modern. The lyrics were the most memorable of any movie I've ever seen. There were many of us that could quickly memorize the entire opera from listening to the soundtrack (no videos back then), and have much fun "play acting" ourselves.

The use of Judas as a primary character was probably the single most important aspect of the film. One has to wonder how Judas became one of the inner circle of disciples if he was such an evil crud to begin with. In church he is simply mentioned as being a traitor. The film/musical asks us to think more on this individual, and speculate as to his true nature as a human being. The only other person I know of that attempted to do this was Taylor Caldwell in her novel "I Judas". The point that the crucifixion/resurrection hinged on the betrayal of Judas, should make any Christian wonder if God actually worked through him, and that he wasn't actually "damned for all time."

People seem to be offended by the light-hearted (and hysterically funny!) "King Herod's Song." What does the Bible say about this meeting? Certainly it doesn't say that this was an amicable meeting, and indeed, I seem to remember Jesus being beaten on the palace grounds. The look on Neely's face throughout the Herod song-and-dance is one of seriousness that belies the true nature of what was going on in this scene. This served to remind the viewer that this wasn't sheer levity, and held the scene together in its proper context until it ran full circle with Herod "spazzing" and showing rabid, rather than merely sarcastic hatred for Christ at the end. This was sheer genius and master film craft in my book. I don't think Jesus' expression would come out as well in the stage version. The reservations Pilate had about authorizing the crucifixion seem to come out in the Bible as well. So-called Christians hold Pilate responsible, though there was probably many political things going on that are only vaguely alluded to in the Bible. Non-biblical tradition says that he and his wife, Claudia Procula, eventually converted to Christianity themselves. Who knows?

My least-favorite parts: "I Don't Know How to Love Him" reminds me a lot of "As Long as He Needs Me" in Oliver!. Both songs are plodding, and brings each film to a screeching halt. I believe that this was actually intended to be a pop song, but was thrown in when Webber and Rice were composing the opera. Still, Judas singing this through his tears towards the end of the film was very chilling. "Hosanna, Hosanna" I also find to be rather trite...still...the last stanza never fails to give me goose bumps when the crowd asks if Christ will die for them. Simon Zealot's prolonged screaming (and off key/beat) never fails to annoy me...then again, he was a rebellious zealot after all. The "falling down push up" move in this dance sequence bugs me, too. Another part that bothers me is that suddenly it was Pilate's dream, rather than his wife's as stated in the bible. I guess they did this to narrow the canvas (simplify the number of key characters). But, what a beautiful song! And, I thought the fact that nobody in the cast looked to be much over 25 was kind of weird.

My favorite parts: Caiphas' baritone and Annas' falsetto counterpoint. "Too Much Heaven on Their Minds." The guy with the froggy voice heckling Christ as he's shuffled between Herod and Pilate. The gorgeous girl in the purple shirt (dancer in the Zealot scene)...WHO IS SHE????? Any scene with Judas in it. The montage of crucifixion scenes. The great guitar (all the instrumentation for that matter), and something I wish they had MUCH more of in the movie, that incredible electric piano. I would buy just the instrumental track if it was available.
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Superstar Rocks!
Seanerz21 November 2004
Speaking for the younger generation, I've never seen anything like it. This movie hit theaters 6 years before I was born and I only just saw it now in Nov. 2004. and I was so moved that I had to comment. Visually it was psychedelic, and the editing matches the music masterfully.

The music rocks! Carl Anderson is beyond amazing as Judas, and ALL of the performances are really magnetic. I love singing along with Annas, Jesus, and Kiafass. I mostly listen to KoRn and Rap, so I never expected to remember (rock opera) lyrics and run around performing them. The feeling I got when 1st "experiencing" the movie was trippy. Similar to a live concert. The movie is outstanding and in my opinion will last for generations and generations. It speaks to a part of my soul and spirit.It says "right on" "rock on"
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A Masterpiece of Joy
caspian19787 July 2004
Carl Anderson's hope of being immortal rested on the shoulders of his perfect performance as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Even though the Academy Awards forgot to list him as one of the lost actors of 2003, Carl Anderson will forever be alive and remembered as long as this movie is around. More than 30 years have pasted and it is still breath taking in more ways than one. No matter what you believe, the images, music, and the passion of this movie are powerful. Anderson was content knowing that he lived long enough to see Jesus Christ Superstar become a masterpiece in the eyes of the world. What he didn't know was it was a masterpiece the day it premiered back in 1973.
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Yes...a good Musical
troypmc7 December 2004
Jesus Christ Superstar was an excellent movie and an excellent play. I first heard the soundtrack and then saw the movie, and the movie definitely fills in all of the blanks. I was confused in the beginning, when they all rode up in a bus, but I later caught on. Other than that the movie was great, the voices were great, (especially Judas, he really added anger and sorrow to his part) and the setting was perfect. I found it humorous when there were the anachronisms such as grenades and guns at the market. This was a great movie and I will watch it again and again. I am normally skeptical of musicals but I will always hold this close to my heart. This movie should be seen by anyone, and everyone. Peace!
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Andrew Lloyd Webber's signature piece!
Will_Scarlet22 January 2004
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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what a group of voices!
didi-517 August 2003
The Lloyd-Webber and Rice musical comes to the screen, and is nothing like the stage show at all. The deserts are real, although the back story is that this is a theatre company, putting on a production in real locations.

The cast are largely session singers and unknowns - Ted Neeley, delicate and high-voiced as Jesus (particularly superb in `Gethsemane'); Carl Anderson, black and doe-eyed as Judas with hot soul vocals, Barry Dennen as Pilate, and Yvonne Elliman as Magdelene with her big number `I Don't Know How To Love Him'.

One loss for those who know the stage version is being removed from the crucifixion preamble, when the ghost of Judas sings `Superstar' - this was all video camera projection in the theatre, while in the movie we are detached observers. But at other times we get uncomfortably close. And the songs survive the transportation to a more realistic setting (except the added `Could We Start Again, Please?' which sounds rather too much like the Coca-Cola theme for comfort).

Best scenes? The one in the temple; Hosanna; and the Pharisees tapping on their scaffolding perches like crows.
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Change your perception....
zazoo-223 April 2000
I was brought up Catholic and was taught that Jesus was first and foremost..... "GOD". Little was ever mentioned about his human nature. He was a God so far above me that as a child, I only knew to fear him, the omnipotent One. This movie's greatest accomplishment is to show the "human" side of Christ. It creates an atmosphere that allows you, if you try, to suspend what you think you know to be true now, and imagine yourself living with Christ "the man" BEFORE he became known as God's "only begotten Son".

Jesus was a man. He had friends/followers, he had women companions, he got tired feet, got hungry and had to go to sleep at night, he was angered and he was doubtful, If you deny any of this you are denying the true human nature of Jesus. Understanding this is not sacrilegious.

The questions that are asked in the film such as "Jesus did you expect it to go this far?" "Jesus, do you believe you are who they say you are?" are questions that seem foolish to believers today, but for the people who knew him personally he WAS "just a man". He never claimed to be GOD. It was only after his death that the gospel writers deified him.

The garden of Gethsemane scene is one of the most powerful scenes ever put to film. It is here that we see the true "humanness" of Jesus. His words of doubt (an idea taken from the Gospel of John) clearly substantiate Christ's humanness and his doubts about what was to befall him. In the movie Jesus asks God to tell him "Why?" he must die. It is very moving when seen through the eyes of Jesus the man. For me that was a life changing moment and it brought me to greater understanding of the historical Jesus. I was able to conceive of, for the first time, Jesus the man. I also realized for the first time that Jesus DID know what it is like to be human. I felt closer to him at that moment than ever before. The lyrics also raise some interesting "Do we get too wrapped up in the man and not the message?" This would seem true about all the founders of the world's great religions. (They can't all be right) "Will there always be poor and suffering people?" "How DO we love such a man?"

I think all of the performances were outstanding. I think it has the most powerful musical lyrics ever written and a musical score that fits the drama to a tee. For those people who criticize the performances, remember this was never meant to be a movie in the "MOVIE" sense of the word. It was a rock opera stage production, put on film with expanded scenery (and what a perfect setting it was) in order to bring the historical perception of Jesus into even clearer view. Some people think that calling Jesus Christ a Superstar is sacrilegious. Well, I can't think of anyone who is more of a superstar in the role of a religious leader than Jesus. The people who think it is sacrilegious to put the bible to rock music, well, it was the music for the time. Any method that awakens an interest in Jesus Christ, as a historical person or as God, cannot be bad.

Jesus Christ Superstar reclaimed the love for Jesus from many teens that were my age at the time, and had fallen away from religion. I think the movie still carries that power if watched from the correct perspective. Anyone who thinks this movie is campy.....Just isn't getting it!
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The Book of Judas
MrMovie-231 July 1998
The only disciple without a book in the bible, Judas gets his say in this Norman Jewison adaptaption of the Andrew Lloyd Weber play. Superstar sets Christianity on edge by turning supposed villians into the heroes of Christ 's crucifixion. Judas is seen as the noblest and most knowledgeable of all Christ's disciples who is used by God to accomplish His master plan. The movie makes clear that the legacy of Jesus would not have been possible without the involvement of Judas. Pontius Pilate too is shown in a more positive light than modern Christianity would like. Pilatae is shown as a troubled man who has premonitions of the "Jewish King" and his own role in his death. In recounting his dream, Pilate says that he "saw thousands of millions, crying for this man" and then he "heard them mentioning my name, and leaving me the blame". As controversial as Superstar is and as wonderful > as the score is it can stand alone on just the merits of its movie making. > > The cinematography is tops and the visual effects are magnificent.
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Very good, if not quite a superstar, movie musical
wainot27 May 2004
Although I have been aware of this musical, seemingly forever, I just very recently saw the whole movie on dvd. Unfortunately, while I was acquainted with many of the songs before, I had never really seen it in its entirety before, and I'm not sure why. Also, I've never seen it as a live stage show, be it on Broadway, in London or down the street at the local high school ...

So, then, I can only rate it as a singular movie experience, not comparing it with the Broadway or London stagings. Also, being Jewish and never really studying the life and crucifixion of Jesus, I don't have any strong or pre-conceived spiritual ties to the story.

For me, then, this is a cleverly written and very well-performed musical, that mixes irreverence, time juxtapositions and genuine emotions of sadness and wistfulness. I'm not sure that the movie enhances the great musical; in other words, now that I've seen the movie, I regularly listen to the cd of the musical, and enjoy both about equally. For me, Carl Anderson, as Judas, is the standout, but Ted Neeley does bring an angelic quality to the title character. all of the other supporting roles, including Yvonne Elliman, are done well.

I rate it 8/10 for its excellent music, good staging and for what seems like a faithful film-ization of the original..worth watching for sure!
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The Perfect Movie.
felixoteiza5 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
When I think perfection in movies, I think JCS. My, is this movie beautiful, so beautiful it hurts; it never fails to get me that old tingling in the spine, from beginning to end. And the one I have watched most times in my life. Now, there's some exaggeration in my title, as nothing is perfect in this world, but this is the one that comes closest. As small flaws I see the out of place icons during the fanfare in Gethsemane and the fact that the movie drags a bit at times-for. ex., Annas takes too long to arrive to Caiaphas in their first meeting. But all that is vastly compensated by the breathtaking immensity of this cinematographic masterpiece.

This is a film that you have to watch at least a dozen times to judge fairly. And each time you may focus on one specific item: cinematography, settings, plot development, writing, dialogs, acting, pacing, choreography, editing, soundtrack, score, musical arrangements, lightning, vocals, metaphors, etc. There you got for almost 20 viewings, which is about the number I did when it first came out. And once you have finished you'll agree that this is an unique masterpiece, one in which every one of those elements perfectly fits the rest, as to achieve a flawless, wholesome, integration of image, sound and action on one single piece of art--something that has probable never been achieved in movies before and most likely will never be again. See for ex. all actors doing great jobs singing their songs while never losing the dramatic intensity, the pathos needed for the part.Not one of them drops the ball in this regard (!). And it's Anderson the one setting the bar at its highest possible level, with Heavens on their Minds. But their flawless performances could have been lost, diminished, without a perfect contribution by the remaining components, specially the cinematographic direction. (BTW, the recurring zooming on Judas is not an artsy whim, but a metaphor indicating he'll be the main subject of the movie, by making it appear as if the camera is trying to get him in perfect focus. Metaphors like this one abound in JCS; like the tanks, the planes, or the fact that the actor doing J.C. won't be there at the end, etc.)

Already others have showered enough praises, so I'll just focus on the one element they have neglected but without which this wouldn't be much of a classic: the camera work. In my AN review I speak of the incredibly dynamic camera during the Playboy show, which last only a few minutes after all. In JCS this masterful use of the lenses lasts the entire film. Here the camera doesn't just show us the action, it's not a passive observer, but becomes part of it. It becomes one of the characters, a crucial one, following with its own displacements, angles, zooms, fade outs, the ups and downs of the story. A character that may become as calm, relaxed, in some scenes—as in Everything's Alright for ex.--as tense in others--as in Damned for All Time-or frantic, ebullient, in others—as in Simon Zealote or in the media circus after J.C.'s arrest. And see how it carries the movie upon itself during the scaffold bits, specially the one before Hosanna. Last Supper wouldn't have all its poetic melancholy without those bucolic images of men and goats reflected in the water, neither its pathos without the craning camera during its most crucial moment. Or see how it allows us to see Pilate from below, as he descends god-like from his stone fortress, only to be humbled by J.C.'s silence--see in that scene also the perfect chemistry and harmony between image, action and music.

As most JCS fans have their own favorites, here are several of me. Best cinematography overall: Everything's Alright specially concerning lightning, color composition, camera work & choreography. Most intense dramatic performance: Pilate giving up on J.C. and washing his hands. Here Dennon surpasses anything that Neely, Anderson, could have belted out. Best choreography: Simon Zealote. Best solo performance: J.C. in the Gethsemane. Best camera work: Simon Zealote; everything on the scaffold. Most original element: Pharisees in scaffold, followed by Herod's song. Best lines of dialog: J.C. and Judas in Gethsemane. Best song interpretation: Judas' Heavens on their Minds. Best group song: I've Living to See You. Best Edited segment: jump cuts between a white clad Judas singing Superstar and J.C.'s marching with the cross.

Enough said. And if I ever have the time in my life to watch one film a hundred times, this will be it.
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Hated it then, love it now
jdcarroll31 December 2006
I saw the stage version as a teenager and memorized the entire record during the summer of 1971. I don't remember when I first saw the movie, but I hated it. I didn't think that the Broadway show translated well at all. I am watching it right now, however, and I finally get it. It is a marvelous piece of work.

I am appalled at the people who have criticized it for not being accurate to the New Testament, therefore, not relevant. Quite the contrary, I border on agnosticism and seeing this movie for the first time in 20 years has been a spiritual experience for me. It still speaks to me after 35 years.

I also can't believe people who dismiss the music in and of itself. Are you crazy?
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Saw it in '73 when I was 5...
minimejenni9 May 2007
my took me and my sister & brother to see it in the theatre. Halfway through though the film my Mom had to take us all from the theatre as we were all in tears : ( Poor Mom, didn't realize it would be upsetting/moving.

We had the JC Superstar '8-track' and knew all the lyrics. We finally saw the film 3-4 years later on t.v. and it's been my favorite movie ever since.

I can't count how many times I've seen it and it looks as fresh and timeless as it did then.

I have an 9 year old son and he loves this film as much as I did as a child. He also loves Jewison's 'Fiddler O.T.R.' When he was three or four years and learning to fold laundry we would sing 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker' as we hunted for matching pairs of socks : )
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i will now watch every musical i see
hollyroxaledo25 January 2006
I'm probably the youngest person to even see this movie. Every time i watch it i practically break out in goosebumps from the powerful music. As a 16 yr old,i find this movie AMAZING, i mean AMAZING!!!!!! You don't even need to care about religion(though it helps) to love this movie. My all time favorite song is Could We start again please because it makes me nearly cry when i hear it. My favorite scenes are the ones with the ..what are they magistrates or w/e because of there voices.. i swear if i knew anyone whose voice was that whiny and/or deep i might just show it off and make fun of it myself. The only parts i really didn't like were the images that they portrayed Jesus in (e.g: in could we start again Jesus shrugs ...... would Jesus shrug.. heck no; also, he was so skinny and short and ....not Jesus looking..i mean they must've based it on the fact that he had long hair and a mini-beard.. and he could sing). But back to the point. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Jesus Christ Superstar. The first time i had ever heard about this movie/musical i swore to myself that i'd never watch it because it sounded sacrilegious to make a rock musical about Jesus' life and to only cover Matthew and John. And my mom told me it was a waste of time so i put off watching it for 2 years and i think that was the worst mistake of my life.. because when i finally watched it i was speechless. Mary Magdelene and Judas, Oh my gosh, the best singers of the whole thing. My life was so influenced. I recommend that anyone who doubts the Christian religion, hates musicals, and/or is a hypocritical idiot should watch this musical because it can seriously change lives.
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Always Among An Aging Hippie's Top Ten Picks
Marg-1221 May 2002
This film has a great deal of sentimentality for me, combined with an obsessiveness and awe about all aspects of what I consider to be a truly amazing work of cinematic art and opera, symphonic rock, incredible vocals and spellbinding performances.

I was 21 or 22 when JCS was released in the 70s, and I was obsessively hooked at the first viewing. I estimate that I went to various theaters nearly 200 times to get my JCS rush! Then, years later, I of course purchased the video, and now the DVD. I must admit I was greatly disappointed at the lack of "bonus" material contained on the DVD, but to finally have the ENTIRE film, not the poorly "formatted for your screen" video, I am one happy aging hippie.

Having read other comments and agreed with many, I won't gush on about the superb performances of Carl Anderson and Ted Neeley, Yvonne Elliman and Larry T. Marshall. I must say that, back in the 70s, I found personally that THE most fascinatingly charismatic roles/performances (after Ted Neeley's "I Only Want to Say") were that of High Priest Caiaphas, played by Bob Bingham, and his perfect adorably slimey co-hort, Annas, played by Kurt Yaghjian. And okay, I admit: Anderson, Neeley, and Bingham and the dude who played Peter, just to mention a few of the male cast members, have been MOST pleasing to my eyes at every viewing.

One note on another user's comment: I have always felt that the Israeli Army tanks rolling over the hill, chasing Judas into the temple to crank out "Damned for All Time", represented his inner demons pushing him to begin his "terrible, bloody crime", as opossed to representing the Romans. The Israeli Army jets flying off to "So long Judas . . . Poor old Judas . . . " were the release of those demons, juxtaposing the ancient with the modern, setting the end in motion.

This will always be one of my VERY diverse list of top 10 films!
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Be aware: NOT a Christian work
Qanqor17 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Many people get the wrong idea about Jesus Christ Superstar. It is NOT a Christian work. It is NOT a rah-rah Jesus piece. It is NOT in any way attempting to be a simple retelling of the biblical story. If that's what you're looking for, you're looking in the wrong place.

What it is, really, is a very agnostic piece. Not atheist, but agnostic. It is asking questions, not providing answers. And the questions are those of a modern person looking back on the Jesus story and wondering "What happened here?"

The whole question of the divinity of Jesus is kept delicately ambivalent throughout. On the one hand, those closest to him, those who know him best-- Mary Magdalene and Judas-- repeatedly assert that he's "just a man". Herod is completely willing to be won over to Jesus if he'll merely perform a miracle or two, but Jesus' only reply is seemingly impotent silence. Similarly, he refuses to perform any miracles to help the beggars ("The Temple"). Indeed, we don't see him perform a single miracle throughout the show.

On the other hand, many are firmly convinced that he *can* perform miracles; where did they get that idea from? And no explanation is offered for the way that Jesus accurately foretells Peter's triple denial. Most interesting is the song "Gethsemane", where it certainly *feels* like Jesus is talking to God (or is it just a delusion?).

But if Jesus *is* divine, does the story make sense? I think this is hard for believers to see, but to those who aren't believing Christians, the Jesus story is... shall we say, curious. And so we have Jesus Christ Superstar, a work from the perspective not of a believer, not of a *dis*believer, but from a questioner. From someone looking at it all and trying to make sense of it.

And so, at the very climax of the story, when Jesus is sentenced to death, the whole story freezes, and the authors step out from behind the curtain to speak directly to us, through the voice of Judas, speaking to us from beyond the grave, speaking to us today, in the modern present. Speaking to us to ask the questions at the root of this opera, as if to say "Ok, here was the story, what do you make of it?" And so he sings the key lyrics, those that embody the entire meaning and message of the production:

Every time I look at you, I don't understand why you let the things you did get so out of hand. You'd've managed better if you'd had it planned; why'd you choose such a backwards time and such a strange land? If you'd come today you would have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication. I only want to know: Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed? Do you think you're what they say you are?

This is it. This is the core. THIS is what the show is about. Not a glorification of Jesus but an inquiry into him. If you're a person of faith, there is enough there for you, yes. But if you are an unbeliever (as am I), there's something there for you too. And this is a big reason that Jesus Christ Superstar has always been a personal favorite.

And oh yeah, about the movie itself... :)

Well, I wrote an extensive review of the film itself, but sadly this thing is complaining about a 1000 word limit, so I just deleted it all. So in a nutshell, there are weak points and strong points. Weak points: Neely looks the part of Jesus but can't sing at all, Caiaphas on the album has a much better bass voice, the instrumental tracks are mixed way too soft relative to the vocals, and the lyrics have been changed in places to water down the ambivalence and avoid offending Christians ("HEAL YOURSELVES!"). Strong points: some added verses and two extra songs that aren't on the original album ("Oh this is new! Respect for Caesar!"), the visuals, the mixing in of modern markers to help tell the ancient story. And I leave my original final paragraph:

And finally, there's the closing shot, of Carl Anderson (now no longer Judas), looking back at the set that they are leaving, and peering at the still-standing cross. His searching, questioning expression seems to ask "What happened there?" and beautifully summarizes the whole opera. Because Jesus Christ Superstar is about questions, not answers.
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just great
Joan Duarte11 June 2007
Great performance, great singers, great music. What more do you need? There are no dialogs on this film, just music. All performances are obviously lip sync but they don't seem so. Ted Neeley as Jesus has an incredible and powerful voice. Carl Anderson as Judas is also great. I'm sure thousands of people are waiting for a better DVD edition than the ones we have. What if they put some old footage like interviews, making of, deleted scenes, etc? As a curiosity, the music is slightly different from the CD. It looks the same recording but it's not. You can hear some little differences. Make no mistake: this is the real JCS. There are other JCS but this Ted Neeley IS definitely JCS.
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As a 12 year old growing up in Indiana......this movie opened my world and my mind to dancing, hippies and religion. I truly felt free for the first time in my life.
vpup015 November 2006
My mom (a hard-core Lutheran) thought this movie, "Jesus Christ Superstar" would deepen our faith in religion. She took me (age 12), my brother (age 14), my sister (age 11) and several neighborhood kids all the way across town where our minds proceeded to be "blown" in the most amazing, positive way! Those were the days when you could stay and watch the movie over and over and over (without buying another ticket). I walked out of the Georgetown Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana suddenly knowing that somewhere in this big bleak world, I may actually fit in for once. All the previously-boring religious training I'd endured (parochial school) suddenly made some kind of sense and my idea of who and what God is, was and could be was changed forever! I still watch this film when I feel down and out and always feel spiritually renewed. The dancing, costumes, singing, story, cinematography, not to mention the hippie-themed visual fun-fest continues to thrill and amaze me! I give it two thumbs way way way up! P.S. I watched it three times that August day back in time I EVER invested.
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the best presentation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's best work
craighubleyca1 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, "the Academy Awards forgot to list" Carl Anderson "as one of the lost actors of 2003," but isn't that fitting? Judas isn't recognized as the hero of the story, despite giving up more than anyone else in it... he suffers the condemnation for carrying out God's inevitable will, in Christian concepts of the story anyway. From a Jewish or Muslim perspective he's just getting a good Rabbi or Prophet crucified, and that's probably damnation. The story isn't taking sides on this issue.

It is a credible historical presentation despite its rock opera format. It's easily Andrew Lloyd Webber's best work.

There's a lot to recommend this "hippie" version over some later ones.Jewison's decision to use Shakespeare-like staging with modern props may be influenced by his exposure to Stratford, Ontario's Shakespearean presentations. They're a Southern Ontario institution like himself. It should be said that Jewison's not Jewish, he's a Methodist (Jewison says people make that mistake a lot). Jewison's deep political empathies play throughout this story, which clearly echoes the modern Holy Land - coming as it did in 1973 at the tail end of the Israeli-Arab wars, and at the height of the New Age re-examination of Jesus as a human being. I think it plays well as an authentic retelling of its time, including the highly staged piece at the end where Anderson's voice is featured again. It can't age, because, it really does say both "First Century" and "hippie era", and it does what needs to be done to emphasize what is similar about those times: unaccountable authority resisted by people intent on adopting a more peaceful way of life which echoes traditions and morality more ancient than any they can be taught using any ritual.

This film belongs on a very short list of those that portray religious lives and sacrifices in an emotionally deep and rigorous way, one that doesn't simply present the religious believer as a cartoon to admire (wow you're brave - glad I'm not you!). The passion is strongly felt.

Because it's specifically a *Christian* passion, it's wholly appropriate that the secular Romans, the shallow Herod, are presented as uncaring, unaware or unwilling to stand up to the scheming Pharisees. The story resembles that of the later Gospels in blaming the Pharisees, not the Romans. This is thought by some scholars to reflect the post-70AD reality when the Temple was destroyed and Christianity sought converts among Romans not Jews: in which circumstances, emphasizing the Romans' attempts to find and apply justice and their political inability to stand up to the Pharisees, made more sense than painting them as sole villains. Scholars comment often on the Sanhedrin procedures being wholly discarded in Jesus' "case", and much is made of the trial being held at night, and the unanimous condemnation, which in proper "unanimity minus one" Sanhedrin rules is an acquittal for failure to field a proper defense. Webber doesn't make so much of this but the "trial" is obviously a set up, and the Pharisees obviously political players (though not wholly unsympathetic, they think they are saving their state from a Roman crackdown). Musically, the Pharisee's four-part debate is one of the highlights of the film (I'm biased, I sang the bass part myself on stage once).

But the highlight of the film version is Carl Anderson's solos. Make sure you see this film with a great sound system, even if you have to rent it.

If you buy the soundtrack, the film version soundtrack is the best one.

(pardon what may be spoilers in the above, but if anyone can spoil the Jesus story for you... well OK maybe they can, if you've never been exposed to any Christian stories at all, if so this is a great way to learn)
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Extraordinarily Powerful Presentation
matjag9 August 2005
Next to the "Passion of the Christ" this is the most powerful presentation I've ever seen of the sufferings of Jesus Christ caused by His frustration with the clueless apostles, His fear of dying, and His mental and emotional battles with Judas. Jesus is powerfully portrayed with incredibly insightful lyrics, exceptional musical score (Andrew Lloyd Weber's masterpiece), tremendous vocals and expert acting skill of the cast. In addition to the above plaudits add choreography that not only adds to the emotion and theme of the film but also was skillfully and energetically carried out by a host of quite gifted dancers and singers. Even the setting and the way the film began and ended leads the viewer to feel that the action within the movie and Jesus' actual sufferings and death is an ongoing and an occasion for contemplation and reverence.

I thoroughly recommend this presentation. Here I feel I must single out four performers who standout as the best of a nearly perfect cast: Judas, Simon the Zealot, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus. Their tonal quality and how they weave the emotion and feeling of the moment into their performance of the musical score can lead the viewer into forget that this is a musical and not a traditional film (although the music is beautiful and unforgettable in its' own right).
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A Gem
wileywalt13 October 2005
I loved everything about this rock opera. The opening scene was great fun.

I've watched this movie over 50 times and every X-mas and Easter I try to watch it again. When I was younger it made the bible fun.

It's songs are all outstanding and at different points in my life I had the soundtrack in 8-track, cassette, album, and CD.

They did a great job with the amount of extras while filming on site.

If you've never viewed it, shame on you, :-)

Give it a play you'll be glad you did.

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The meaning of this movie to me
becky973521 May 2002
Throughout my life many things have inspired me, touched me, brought tears to my eyes and helped me through hard times. But nothing can be compared to what the movie Jesus Christ Superstar has given me. When I was little, say 4 or 5, my parents showed me Jesus Christ Superstar. I loved it from the beginning, but until recently I only loved it for the music, acting, and the way they portrayed Jesus' last days. I cried during the Garden of Gethsemane scene, but I didn't know why, I got `the chills' in just about every other song, but didn't understand the meaning of it all. I thought it was so cool that people portraying priests wore funny hats and everyone else wore halter-tops and jeans, and it was so awesome that the there were machine guns and tanks and airplanes in a time where they obviously didn't have those things. I have so many memories of every time watching it. Showing friends and having them not understand or hate it, showing other friends who fell in love with it as well, watching it with my grandma (she started my mom on her obsession) and fast-forwarding through the scene where Pontius Pilate has Jesus beaten because it was so bloody and sad. I would talk about it to my friends whenever the occasion or subject arose, they usually dismissed it, and I really don't think I over-obsessed about it because of that. Last week I watched it again for probably the billionth-and one time, and I have cried watching it before, but it was different this time. I didn't cry when he screamed in pain asking God `Why?' he has to go through such an ordeal, `why him?' over and over again. To tell you the truth, I was wondering why I wasn't crying at that part, because I usually am. No, I didn't cry until after he realized that what he does is all for the glory of God, and he says the ultimate killer lines for me. `God, thy will is hard. But you hold every card. I will drink your cup of poison, nail me to your cross and rape me, beat me, bleed me, kill me, take me now, before I change my mind.' And even though I can't describe it now, or even understand it, something clicked in me. As I was reading all the comments for this movie, I was realizing that some people didnt like it, and apparantly I should be offended by it, as a Catholic. This movie isnt only not offensive to me, its what keeps reminding me of my faith, keeps me strong and happy. Oh yea the music kicks so much ass too.
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Excellent Pop version of the Bible
Vigilante-40719 June 2001
I would have to say that I believe that Jesus Christ Superstar is the best work that Andrew Lloyd Webber every put out...there is just something remarkable about the music and the words that really brings you into the story.

It's very strange...I'm not a religious man (though I am a spiritual one) but I enjoy watching movies about the Bible (The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Last Temptation of Christ). For some reason, they seem to validate my views on modern organized religion.

JCS in particular shows a considerably different view on the Bible. To be honest, Jesus comes off as a bit of a jerk at times (please don't email me about that terminology, I am not trying to raise hackles, just describe what I feel about the film), and I find myself having sympathy for Judas and his actions. Both men are doing what they think is right, but Judas seems to get his reasons across to us in much more clear terms...he wants to be free but he also wants he and his people to live. He doesn't understand what Jesus has offered and is disillusioned, because he really doesn't have the "faith".

Ted Neeley may play the title role, but Carl Anderson steals the show as Judas...he is a fantastic singer and actor.

The motifs in the sets are naturally a bit dated, but the entire message of the movie still comes through loud and clear.
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The greatest musical ever.
Thomas-1409 June 2000
This film is the best musical I have ever seen and the music is so great it is almost unbelievable. Norman Jewison later made the movie Hurricane, but this film is just as good.The music itself and the lyrics are fantastic and the result is excellent.I recommend this film to people who love great music and fantastic movies. Before I saw this musical, I hated the genre.But my love for musicals got bigger and bigger every time I saw this movie and I still watch it.
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Stellar performances and groovy threads.
kph200127 April 2000
Nevermind that the film was controversial... the performances were outstanding. I first watched heard the soundtrack when my mother bought it on a whim. She exposed me to the music and it was not long before I wanted to see the movie for myself.

When I did it instantly became one of my favorites--- certainly my favorite of Webber & Rice's.

I revisted and exposed the film to my girlfriend not too long ago (inspired by Holy Week, of course) and realized how much appreciation I have for Jewison's extraordinary interpretation.

Neeley and Anderson are outstanding. I considered other reviews while listening to the soundtrack and must argue that the entire cast delivers entirely real and stellar performances.

The fact that the movie has 1970's imprints is not to be brushed off as just something that dates the film. In the closer, Judas is asking Christ why he didn't come to earth today:

("Why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? / If you'd come today you would have reached a whole nation / Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication...")

Therefore, Judas' groovy threads are necessary. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see JCS live--- even luckier to see Neeley and Anderson as the leads--- they've kept with that philosophy and the entire cast (save the priests & Jesus) were dressed in nineties clothes... I also should note that King Herod was an Elvis impersonator (quite funny).

This movie is simply unforgettable.
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