The story of the life of Jesus Christ from his birth in Bethlehem to his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Filmed on a relatively grand scale, the film includes all of the major events referred to in the New Testament; his baptism by John the Baptist; the miracles - cripples walking, blind men seeing; the fishes and the loaves; and so on. The film actually begins with the Roman invasion by Pompey in 65 B.C., the appointment of King Herod the Great by the Romans and finally the crowning of Herod Antipas after he murders his father. The revolt led by Barrabas is also included and John the Baptist's beheading as Salome's price for dancing for Herod.Written by
MGM must be credited with bankrolling this expensive project. True, their objectives were probably mercenary, hoping to cash in on their earlier commercial success, "Ben Hur." Still, the big studio can't be faulted for choosing Nicholas Ray to head their massive enterprise. Ray's work's always worth watching, and here he proves he can lead a gigantic spectacle to impressive heights.
Miklos Rozsa's "inspirational" score is notable for its prominent use of voices and thematic motifs. Philip Yordan and his writing colleagues fashion a respectable script.
Orson Welles manages to subdue his often florid histrionic tendencies to render outstanding narration.
Further credit to MGM for engaging a more than decent cast of solid professionals, headed by Siobhan McKenna, Hurd Hatfield, Viveca Lindfors, Rip Torn and Robert Ryan.
Kudos to the second unit and art direction, and to the fine photography and striking costumes.
Jeffery Hunter must be given credit for taking on an impossible role and coming out not too badly.
As for the validity of its historicity, that may be an entirely different matter, and each viewer must draw his and her own conclusions on this. With a story as old as the hills, there isn't much room left for many fresh insights, and what gives this interest is the big studio that mounts this ancient tale.
In this case, MGM and crew made a pretty good show.
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