Monday, April 17, 2017

Movie Review: Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth
ITC Films, RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, Italy, UK, 1977.

This year's Easter Special Biblical Epic is 6-hour miniseries made in 1977.

Part 1
Josef (Yorgo Voyagis) and Mary (Olivia Hussey) are betrothed. At night Mary gets God's message to go see her cousin Elizabeth (Marina Berti) who has gotten baby John who will become John the Baptist. Maria is now also pregnant and will get God's child. Joseph hesitates to marry Maria now, as that would be against the law of Israel but God says that everything will be alright.
The Roman Empire orders a census so Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem. Herod (Peter Ustinov) fears that Messiah will take his throne. Jesus is born and the family has to escape Herod's assassins.

Part 2
John the Baptist (Michael York) preaches about coming of Messiah and baptizes Jesus (Robert Powell). Herod Antipas (Christopher Plummer) captures John. Jesus gathers the disciples and starts modernizing the rigid Jewish law system. Salome (Isabel Mestre), manipulated by her mother Herodias (Valentina Cortese), demands to have John the Baptist's head. 
Michael York
John the Baptist
Isabel Mestre
Isabel Mestre as Salome
Part 3
Jesus continues performing miracles. He gets two new followers: Judas Iskariot (Ian McShane) and Mary Magdalene (Anne Bancroft). Political intrigue around Jesus continues as the rebels and the rabbis would like to use him for their own purposes. Jesus goes to Jerusalem and teaches about loving thy neighbours. Jesus curses those who would like to deny Heaven from common people and those who are twisting religion to serve their own purposes.
Robert Powell
Ian McShane
Judas Iskariot
Part 4
The Jewish priests decide fate of Jesus. Despite dissenting opinions they give Jesus to Romans and Jesus is crucified.
Ian Holm as Zerah
The script was written by Anthony Burgess (known for "Clockwork Orange"), which probably gave the political intrigue more spotlight than in usual Jesus films. The political tensions in Jerusalem at that time were increasing and the Roman rulers and Jewish priests wanted to avoid conflict. So the man who preached for peace became a scapecoat for the unrest.

The cast is strong and production values high. Music was composed by composer of epic soundtracks Maurice Jarre. The Biblical epics are always perfect chance for film buffs to play Spot the Star. Hey, it has Ian McShane as Judas Iskariot. Peter Ustinov as Herod the Great, Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate, Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas and Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus. The Three Magi have Fernando Rey as Caspar, Donald Pleasence as Melchior, James Earl Jones as Balthazar. And many more. Robert Powell's Jesus has dreamer's eyes and solemn charisma. There is almost Ingmar Bergman style mystical humanism.
Ernest Borgnine
Ernest Borgnine as Centurion
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones as Balthazar
Although artistically it may not be as strong as "Last Temptation of Christ" or "Passion" as a traditional film depiction of Jesus it is one of the best. Although available also in abridged cinematic version, the miniseries version is the version to see. The setback of that version is that it may feel overwhelmingly long (4x91 min), so it is best watched in parts. The beginning is slow but improves after the first part and really shines in the last two parts.

Rating: Very good

Starring: Robert Powell, Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, James Farentino, Ian McShane, Christopher Plummer, Olivia Hussey, Tony Vogel, John Duttine, Michael York, Jonathan Muller, Claudia Cardinale, Valentina Cortese, Sergio Nicolai, James Mason, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, John Eastham, Ian Holm, Ian Bannen, Keith Skinner, Keith Washington, David Garfield, Robert Rietty, Nikki Van der Zyl, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, Tony Lo Bianco, Donald Pleasence, Fernando Rey, Ralph Richardson, Peter Ustinov, Cyril Cusack, Yorgo Voyagis, Marina Berti, Maria Carta, Robert Beatty, Nancy Nevinson, Christopher Reich, Lorenzo Monet, Murray Salem, Steve Gardner, Cyril Shaps, John Tordoff, Isabel Mestres, Renato Montalbano, Bruce Lidington, Mimmo Crao, Oliver Smith, Martin Benson, Regina Bianchi, Robert Brown, Lee Montague, Renato Rascel, Oliver Tobias, Norman Bowler, John Phillips, Ken Jones, Renato Terra, Roy Holder, Jonathan Adams, Michael Cronin, Forbes Collins, Michael Haughey, Derek Godfrey, Robert Davey, George Camiller, Francis De Wolff, Antonello Campodifiori, Tim Pearce, Paul Curran, Mark Eden, Bruno Barnabe, Simon MacCorkindale, Lionel Guyett, Peter Harlowe, Carl Forgione, Donald Sumpter, Pino Colizzi, Norman Eshley, Yorgos Vogiatzis, Darien Angadi, Immad Cohen, Stefan Kalipha, Harold Bennett, Andrew Manson
Director: Franco Zeffirelli


  1. Kova on kaasti, ei käy kieltäminen.

  2. Borgninelle sopii sadanpäämiehen vermeet.

    Lieneeköhän Borgnine kaukaista sukua Borgia-suvulle kun taitaa ainakin omata italialaiset juuret? Tai no, ehkei kuitenkaan kun kerran on Borg NEIN!
    Ehkä sitten kenties Star Trekin borgeille?

    1. Mistäs sen tietäisi vaikka olisi Borgin suvun muinaisia kilpailijoita. Yllättävä oli myös Porin Ernon pistäytyminen gladiaattorin roolissa Demetrius and the Gladiatorsissa.


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