Search - The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ / From the Manger to the Cross on DVD

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ / From the Manger to the Cross
The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ / From the Manger to the Cross
Actors: Madame Moreau, Monsieur Moreau
Director: Ferdinand Zecca
Genres: Classics, Drama
NR     2003     1hr 55min

Depicting well-known incidents in the life of Jesus Christ, these milestones of early cinema won world fame, huge audiences and a screen life of decades when most secular films of the time measured their commercial life in...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Madame Moreau, Monsieur Moreau
Director: Ferdinand Zecca
Genres: Classics, Drama
Sub-Genres: Silent Films, Drama
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 04/08/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/1913
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1913
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 55min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)

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Movie Reviews

Two fine early Biblical films
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 04/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ is a stunning film. It was begun in 1902 and completed in 1905. It equals or surpasses any other film I have seen from this period. It depicts various scenes in the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Ascension. Each scene starts with a title card briefly describing the following action. There are no dialogue titles, which means the film assumes a fairly good knowledge of the Bible. Anyone coming to the film with no prior knowledge of the story of Christ would find the film in places quite hard to follow. For example, when the Marriage of Cana is depicted and Christ turns the water into wine, it would be hard to judge that he was doing this unless one knew in advance. There are 31 scenes or tableaux in the film which runs around 44 minutes and many of them resemble the paintings of Renaissance art. The scene of the last supper is reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous fresco. But the film is far from static, including lively crowd scenes and quite violent action, as in the scene of the slaughter of the innocents. It has a good deal of spectacle, and for its time, fine special effects showing Christ walking on water or angels appearing as if from nowhere. Best of all this film showcases an early example of Pathé's stencil colour process, whereby various colours were applied to the individual frames of film. The result is quite beautiful to look at. The print of Life and Passion of Jesus Christ is excellent. For such an early film, it is marvellous that such a clear and detailed print has survived. The second film on this DVD, From the Manger to the Cross (1912), shows how quickly filmmaking had progressed during the few years since the making of the Pathé film. It is more sophisticated, with a more naturalistic style of acting. It was filmed on actual locations, rather than on stage sets, and provides some fascinating glimpses of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Pyramids and the Sphinx. It runs around 70 minutes and is one of the earliest American feature films. It is thus of considerable historical importance. The main fault with From the Manger to the Cross is that it has far too many titles. Each scene uses Biblical quotations to describe the action and to provide dialogue. This sometimes works well, but is overdone, so that the viewer must spend too much time reading rather than watching. I enjoyed this film less than the earlier one, but it is still a fine film setting the standard for the many Biblical epics which would follow. The tinted print of From the Manger to the Cross is good, but not as pristine as the Pathé film. It shows some wear and tear and is somewhat soft lacking some detail and clarity of image. Both of the films on this DVD have fine organ scores. The music follows the action and the mood of the films and is well played on a church organ. This DVD is excellent value, including two of the most important early films about Jesus Christ. It should be of interest to both silent film fans and more generally those who enjoy Biblical films."
The Passion Of Christ - Two Silent Versions.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It is interesting to note with all the attention being paid to Mel Gibson's PASSION OF THE CHRIST, that this film version was made around 100 years ago (started in 1902 and finished in 1905). THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST was produced in France as a series of 31 tableaux and utilizes the famous Pathe hand stenciled color process. Anyone familiar with the story of Jesus will easily follow it while those who aren't won't have any real difficulty. There are no gospel quotations here only title cards which preface each segment and some of the most remarkable sketched and painted scenery ever seen which are based on the drawings of Gustave Dore. The sets and costumes are equally impressive. The performances are not performances but actors striking a series of poses (especially Jesus) which is fitting for a series of tableaux. The condition of the film is truly remarkable. I have never seen a film of this vintage look this good. A remakable find and a welcome addition to the ever growing list of silent films available on home video.

The second title on this disc, FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS, has already been out on VHS as part of Kino's FIRST AMERICAN FEATURES series. It's main asset is that it was filmed on location in the Middle East. Originally made by the Kalem company in 1912 it was reissued and retitled with an overabundance of Biblical quotes by Vitagraph in the late teens. A sincere and fairly restrained look at the life of Christ (although the Crucifiction scene is quite realistic), it tells its story simply with an animated segment at the very end. While it didn't leave me with a sense of wonder like the first film did, it is likely to have more appeal to those who are just starting out with silent film. It is also of historical significance as one of the earliest surviving American features. Both titles have excellent organ scores by Timothy Howard and are ideal for anyone interested in silent cinema or the life of Jesus. Experience a PASSION that's almost a century old and still going strong."
The quality of these very early films is astounding
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 05/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD contains two wholly remarkable films based on the life of Christ, two of the earliest feature films ever made; as such, this DVD should be of great interest to silent movie fans as well as Christians. Each film showcases its own remarkable style of cinematography, but both surely communicated the message of Christianity very effectively to their original audiences. It is amazing that both of these films actually survived all these years, yet not only did they survive, they look absolutely fantastic, much better than any other silent film I have ever seen.

As I write this, The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ is celebrating its centennial. Begun in 1902 and completed in 1905 by Pathe Freres in Paris, this film, which runs some 44 minutes in length, is made up of 31 fascinating tableaux chronicling the life of Jesus from His birth to His ascension. The quality of the film, restored from two 35mm original prints, is nothing short of astounding. You won't find any characters' faces bleached out, and there are no serious jumps or foreign artifacts cluttering up any of the shots. You really wouldn't know you are watching one of the oldest feature films in existence by the look of the presentation; in fact, you might find yourself scrambling to verify that 1905 is the correct date of the film when you see parts of it presented in color. You need not fear that Ted Turner has gotten his hands on this print, however, as Pathe Freres actually came up with a technique to apply up to four colors to prints way back in 1903 - what you see here is basically the very same thing audiences saw a century ago. This film is so old that it doesn't even feature any dialogue cards - just title cards introducing each of the tableaux. As such, parts of the story may be hard to follow for anyone unfamiliar with the life of Jesus. The acting itself features a lot of gesturing; Jesus is continually pointing toward the sky, for example. After performing a miracle, he is also liable to extend his arms in a manner that brings the phrase Ta-da to my mind. One has to be impressed by the special effects of this film - angels actually materialize and dematerialize on screen, for example, and Jesus walks on water. I would never have believed it possible to do such incredible special effects way back in 1905. Of course, a more mundane approach is sometimes used. To make sure audiences get the point about the cock crowing after Peter's third denial of Christ, a rooster gets tossed into the frame at the appropriate moment. The most curious part of the film is the birth of Jesus, though; Mary and Joseph both kneel beside an empty manger, and then the baby Jesus just magically appears a few seconds later.

From the Manger to the Cross is the more modern of these two films, debuting in 1912. What makes this movie really special is the fact that it was actually filmed on location in the Holy Land. It also stands as one of the earliest American-made feature films, clocking in at some 75 minutes in length. The video quality isn't quite as good as that of the earlier film, but it is still pretty darned amazing. You do see a little bit of a bleached look from time to time, but there is no problem seeing the actors' facial expressions. This film does feature dialogue cards, with the entire content coming straight from the Bible. This helps communicate the message of what is being presented on screen, making this film a perfect tool to put in the hands of missionaries of that era. This is a much more naturalistic film than The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ; you won't see many special effects, for example - only the reaction of characters to such miraculous events as the appearance of an angel. I did find it somewhat strange that the movie ended when it did, though. I fully expected the story to cover Jesus' resurrection, but the film does indeed live up to its title by ending with Jesus' death on the cross.

My only complaint about this DVD is its lack of source materials on the two films. All you get is an insert containing an excerpt from the reminiscences of the actress who played Mary the mother of Jesus in From the Manger to the Cross. There's a lot of good information there, including an account of angry Arabs preventing the crew from filming its final scene on location, but I was rather disappointed to get no sort of documentation at all about the first and more intriguing film of this DVD pairing. Still, this is an amazing DVD that should strongly appeal to silent movie enthusiasts - the superior quality of such old films is miraculous in and of itself. Christians will appreciate the story being presented, of course, but some may also find these silent movie treatments rather boring."
Priceless Artifacts of Early, Silent, Bible Cinema! Appeals
Bryan E. Leed | Dayton, OH USA | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you are even considering buying a DVD of Bible stories from the silent film era in the first place, then you will not be disappointed with this DVD! It is well worth the price on!

This is a nicely restored DVD project, including a modern soundtrack of organ music, similar to what organists would play in the early movie theaters of a century ago!

This DVD has two separate productions on it, both centered on the life of Jesus Christ! They are both a bit primitive in their choppy scene changes, but there is little non-Biblical footage in the two films, (which too often hampers later and modern day Bible stories on DVD). The picture quality on this DVD is VERY NICE, especially for 100 year old silent movies!

What these films lack in modern polish is easily forgiven, and innocently enjoyable, due to the extreme sincerity of both films to try to accurately depict the Bible scenes shown. This is little to none of any non-Biblical content, but a slight Catholic influence may be discerned at times, (such as the non-Biblical Veronica wiping the face of Christ as he carries the cross).

The DVD liner notes give some background text about the productions of these two films. The liner notes are mostly about FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS (1912). The liner notes say that both of these films did the silent cinema circuit for many years, and were very popular, at a time when most silent movies only went around once. I think they got the most mileage out of the annual Easter seasons.

The DVD itself has no extras, as we think of them in contemporary DVD releases of major motion pictures.

The oldest of the two films is THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST (1905), which is about 44 minutes long. This film was originally released in 1902, and later, more scenes were shot and added, the last additions occurring by 1905. This movie is a full century old now! Amazing to find it looking so good on DVD!

THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST (1905) includes title cards before each scene, such as "The Annunciation," "Arriving in Bethlehem," etc. There are no other text cards to read during each scene, just the title cards before each scene.

In THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST (1905), the actress playing Mary is great, and my favorite part of this film. She appears at the beginning and at the end of the film.

Compared to the actress cast as Mary, the actor playing Jesus is a bit of a let down. He is a bit pudgy to play Jesus. This actor sort of reminds me of Jeff Bridges in THE BIG LEBOWSKI in his appearance.

THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST (1905) has hand-colored areas (like people's clothing), and many scenes are color tinted. All of this is as it appeared 100 years ago, of course, so all is forgiven.

THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST (1905) has tons of Bible scenes, each about a minute long, or so.

Most of the camera angles are from a full stage view, as if the camera were filming a stage play from the second row, center of the audience. This is very common for silent films of this era. What is interesting is that there are a couple of closer, waist up shots later in the film, which was pretty experimental for 1905!

The other movie on this DVD is FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS (1912), which is about 70 minutes long.

FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS (1912) uses tons of Bible verses throughout the scenes, not just once before each scene starts!

FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS (1912) has a better looking actor cast as Jesus. This actor looks a lot like a classical portrayal of Jesus as found in art and paintings of the past, such as the works of the artist named Dore', whom the liner notes mention.

My favorite scene in FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS (1912) is when Jesus clears out the temple of money changers. It is fun to see the look on his face as he immediately pulls the belt from his waist and beats them all over the head to get them to leave. It is a brief scene, but very cool.

I think both films are equally good. I have watched the 1905 film more often than the 1912, since the 1905 film is more unique, being the oldest Bible stories on DVD, and possibly the earliest every made(?). But the 1912 film is probably much more sophisticated and polished in its production quality.

This DVD features footage that is over 100 years old! Many scenes include primitive SPECIAL EFFECTS! This is very fun to watch, if you have any interest at all in silent movies.

This is a very interesting DVD, showing perhaps the oldest, silent movie Bible stories in existence, (perhaps the earliest moving pictures of Bible stories ever made?); but even though this is highly interesting and priceless for Christian fans of oldies cinema history, it probably will NOT be enjoyable to non-fans of Silent Films."