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
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Tim Rice had been turning over the idea in his own head for awhile in the late 60s about the story of Christ from Judas' perspective. When he finally approached his writing partner, Andrew Lloyd Webber about it, Webber said it was the "stupidest idea he had ever heard in his life." But Rice persisted, and he and Lloyd Webber finally finished the piece in 1970. They started by doing a production in the UK; which was a gigantic bomb, and was quickly closed down. Then it was turned into a concept album, which was a smash. Then it was turned into a Broadway show, starring Broadway superstar Ben Vereen as Judas, a drag queen playing Herrod. Lloyd Webber despised the Broadway show, called it "vulgar", a misrepresentation of his work, and said opening night of the Broadway show was the "worst day of his life." But that too turned into a legendary smash, and eventually led to this Norman Jewison film, which was also a smash. Lloyd Webber hated the film version as well, but he did love the Jesus Christ Live reboot in 2018, which won an Emmy Award. He said this version finally captured the respectful and robust spirit that he wanted when he originally penned the show in the first place. 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) a twigs swings back and forth wildly, indicating that the camera has brushed against it. See more »
My mind is clearer now - at last all too well, I can see where we all soon will be, If you strip away the myth from the man, You will see where we all soon will be...
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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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