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John Wycliffe: The Morning Star (1984)

| Biography, Drama, History
The story of 14th century John Wycliffe, AKA "The Morning Star of the Reformation", who was the first to translate the Bible into English.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Bertenshaw ...
John Purvey
James Downie ...
Peter Howell ...
Barrie Cookson ...
Dr. Nicholas Hereford
Jeremy Roberts ...
Peter J. Cassell ...
Batka (as Peter Cassell)
Wycliffe's Niece
Noel Howlett ...
Archbishop Sudbury
Robert James ...
Bishop Courtenay
Malcolm Terris ...
Martin Matthews ...
Sebastian Abineri ...
Peasant Husband
Anna Lindup ...
Peasant Wife
Keith Buckley ...
Colin Russell ...
Squire Newberry


John Wycliffe, the scholar and lay preacher of the 14th century who was later dubbed "The Morning Star of the Reformation", risked his life and freedom to criticize the Church for its abuses of power and its false teachings. The dramatized story of his life includes his battles with Church authorities, his relationship with the peasants and his realization that the Bible must be translated into English, so that the common man, as well as the learned, could read it. Written by J. Spurlin

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In The Days Before Martin Luther
27 February 2011 | by (Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

It's almost cliché today to regard Martin Luther as the father of what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation of the church. That description may well be accurate, but it should be noted that the Reformation had some grandfathers as well, one of whom was John Wycliffe.

Wycliffe was a giant of his day - a renowned scholar and theologian and a very brave man who stood against the powerful religious and civil authorities of the day to proclaim what he perceived to be a true gospel - a gospel of God's grace offered to all without the intervention of the church being necessary. A giant though Wycliffe may have been, this movie that bears his name doesn't measure up to that standard. It's certainly not a lavish production. It's a wee bit grainy and the production values aren't noteworthy. The dialogue at times is a bit stilted, and it's quite slow moving at times, seeming much longer than its 75 minute run time to be honest. Historically, though, it's reasonably accurate in its portrayal of Wycliffe's life from his days as a teacher at Oxford, through to his condemnation as a heretic, his death and then the desecration of his body years later. The "hot button" theological issues of the days are all brought out - from indulgences to the fate of babies who die without being baptized to the doctrine of transubstantiation. There's a brief look at Wycliffe as a social reformer, sympathizing with the plight of oppressed English peasants but refusing to support violent revolution. There's also the account of the act for which he's probably most famous: the decision to make the Scriptures accessible to the "common man" by translating them into English.

No one will mistake this for a masterpiece. It does, however, feature a good performance from Peter Howell as Wycliffe. Howell came across as believable and earnest in the part. For those with an interest in the pre-Reformation reformation, this will be a very interesting watch.

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