Interesting, affectionate, tongue in cheek...
Cowboy Buddha | Essex UK | 05/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a great idea - an overview of all of the Hollywood biblical epics from the silent era right up to Mel Gibson's latest effort. Informative without being overly serious, the narration is thankfully tongue in cheek at times. It's hard to take some of these films too seriously - so many of them fall into the "so bad they're enjoyable" category. There are plenty of clips - the most fascinating involving those forgotten (and sometimes lost) silent films of the pre-Hays era when audiences got proportionately more sin than salvation. But the bulk of the time is spent, and rightly so, on those magnificent blockbusters of the 1950's when Cecil B DeMille was king (if not a sort of god himself).The only downside - for me anyway - was how few of the people involved in making these films are interviewed. Presumably because most of them are dead. Some - such as Ramon Navarro and Virginia Mayo - are seen in archive interviews. Jay Robinson talks at length about playing Caligula in The Robe and Demetrius And The Gladiators, but all we see of his portrayal is a few seconds of him throttling Susan Hayward. Even weirder is the recollections of one of the dwarves who tormented Victor Mature in Samson And Delilah. Charlton Heston offers a few eloquent insights. But anecdotes such as Elmer Bernstein describing how DeMille gave him musical guidance on The Ten Commandments or the marvellous Peter Ustinov doing an impression of Mervyn LeRoy talking about Nero for Quo Vadis make you realise how much more background there must be to this story.But the clips are great and the narration seldom fails to amuse, if not always enlighten ("There were two directors on Sodom And Gomorrah - presumably one directed Sodom while the other did Gomorrah"). And one of the genuine low points of twentieth century film making - Mickey Rooney as the snake in the garden of Eden - is preserved for an unbelieving posterity.It's a fascinating effort and the two hours fly by much too quickly. I found myself wishing they would make a companion film about all those non-biblical historical epics such as El Cid, The Vikings, Taras Bulba, etc. But, hopefully, with a few more interviews."
Claudio Iacoe | Toronto, Canada | 12/28/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased the DVD expecting at least a small measure of critical discussion on why the Biblical epics sustained such popularity over several decades of Hollywood history. Instead the viewer is subjected to tongue and cheek commentary or blanket generalizations as to why this or that film failed at the box office. This is not so much a documentary as merely a string of trailers and short interview clips (these are presented in a mish mash fashion and are often too short to offer any real insight). At one point, during a discussion of the Old Testament, the narrator is commenting on how stories were easily adapted by Hollywood screenwriters because they made for compelling drama. However this narration is accompanied by a shot of Will Durant, the philosopher and historian, who acted as a consultant on Anthony Mann's "Fall of the Roman Empire". This film is not a biblical epic at all and is set in the years of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus in Rome; there is nothing overtly religious about the storyline and Durant was not even the screenwriter. But since some old footage was available the producers decided to throw it into the mix. There is nothing new in the documentary and the producers time and again comment on what is available in terms of footage. If this is not bad enough they are often incorrect with their facts. Anyone really interested in the genre above a superficial treatment should avoid this at all costs."