Stark and dark
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 01/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Filmed at Pinewood Studios, this production has sparse sets with scaffolding that serves for nearly every scene, and has the feel of a stage performance; it has been updated to an indeterminate era, but definitely a time one wouldn't want to live in. There are Nazi-like authority figures, punky gun-toting youth, and the walls are covered in graffiti. The colors are provided by the lighting, and are usually in either a monocromatic dark blue or yellow-orange.
Inevitably, many people will compare this to the 1973 Norman Jewison film, which is a pity, as they are so vastly different. This is much more somber, and the final scenes are wrenching. Glenn Carter is astounding as Jesus, vocally exceptional in what must be a difficult part to sing, and looking like an Albrecht Durer painting. His Gethsemane ("I Only Want to Say") is superb, and worth the price of this film alone.
Jerome Pradon is also excellent as Judas, and Fred Johanson's Pilate is marvelous, though the entire cast is good, both as actors and singers.
It is interesting in this film how skillfully the evil in a character is portrayed in the song and dance numbers, by Herod (who is so well played by Rik Mayall), and Judas.One feels the exhaustion and horror of Jesus' last days palpably in this film. The drama of the scourging is a magnificent piece of staging, and powerful; it is a visual punch to the gut, and the crucifixion scene is brilliantly done and moves me to tears every time I see it.
Not an easy film to watch, but well worth the purchase, as it gets better with each viewing."
Why is Jesus in a gay porn video?
Patty Lee | Kansas USA | 12/28/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
If you like the original (Brit) cast recording, I'd recommend borrowing this from the library so you can have a good laugh. The 73 film version is a freak-fest, but at least it's of the era, and the singing ranges from good to excellent (in the case of Judas). And it mostly rocks.
Since the advent of the Broadway versions, however, JCS has stopped rocking. And for that I am very, very sad. Since Broadway got a hold of it, all of Jesus's rock-screamer high notes are now warbled as if sung by a soprano in a production of Cats: this version follows that lead. And the visuals in this version are mostly awful. This looks like a cross between a Kajagoogoo video, an episode of 21 Jump Street, Fame, and an 80s gay porn movie (arcane references lost on younger viewers: but then, so are most of the visual references in the film). I say this without the slightest trace of homophobia. In fact, I think it's sort of interesting to play Jesus and his disciples as gay, and the lyrics of the musical do support the possibility. I can imagine a version that would be quite interesting and radical. This one's just lame. Jesus looks like Robert Plant in a wifebeater. Simon the Zealot is in fingerless gloves. Judas is wearing a motorcycle jacket and looks like Rob Corddry from the Daily Show doing an impression of Rob Halford. Pilate looks like a Tom of Finland drawing. It's such a bizarre, dated set and costuming....and overacted as if being performed on a stage in an amphitheatre.
Musically, it is weak. The vocals are so far in the front that one can't hear the band/orchestration. Purists beware for more reasons than this: lyrics are inexplicably changed. Come one: you can't take out the line "Jesus is cool"!!! Even more lyrics are changed than in the Broadway version.
Seriously, this is cringeworthy. If you want a film version, go for the classic with all its flaws."
A well done revision of a classic
Marilyn Hull | Chattanooga, TN United States | 03/31/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As Lent rolls around every year, I always pull out my well-worn copy of Jesus Christ Superstar on CD. (I wore out the album, twice). The music of ALW and Rice is superb and moving. I've seen the Jewison version of this movie a number of times, and my fiance and myself actually thought that's what we were buying on DVD when we purchased this copy...however. It didn't take us long to figure out this wasn't the same movie we'd seen before.In terms of the sheer power of the story, this newest entry into the market is head and shoulders above the Jewison rendition. While I much preferred the way the first JCSS was filmed (on location, etc.) the performances in the Edwards' film were much more powerful. It pays to remember that when ALW/TR wrote the original score, their goal was to bring Christ to the people of the day. This staging certainly accomplishes that, even if it's not really my 'style.'Glenn Carter as Christ is tormented by his 'role' as the Messiah, obviously conflicted about his relationship with Judas (more on Pradon later), often poignantly affected by his coming trials. His voice did seem a bit 'weak' for the material, but it is the scenes of him in the final moments (after his arrest through his cruxifiction) that reduced me to tears. He lives the pain...it is apparent in every move he makes, every expression on his face.Judas...what can I say. From the first moment, he captured me. I've never seen Judas as the cold, calculating man he is frequently portrayed to be. To me, he was a puppet in the hands of a power he couldn't begin to understand. He is afraid for Christ and the apostles, that much is made clear. To him, it's a obviously a case of saving Jesus from himself...but it backfires when he realizes what the Romans really have planned. Pradon in this role is perfect. First of all, his voice is stunning. He sings this role as if it were written for him. He's just flashy enough without letting it intrude on the story he's telling. The scene where he realizes what he's set in motion with his kiss is one of the most moving depictions I've ever seen/heard/read of that moment in time. I'll be looking for more of his work (hopefully in English!)Fred Johanson is amazing as Pilate -- a towering presence with a soul. The pathos in his voice and face (and body language) as he pleads with Jesus to 'help me help you' made me stop and think about Pilate in a very different way. Rik Mayall as Herod is perfect. Herod has frequently seemed 'silly' in other productions. Mayall's rendition makes him a bored aristocrat with a razor edge of nastiness under the surface. Not someone I'd want to meet in a dark alley. Renee Castle as Mary Magdalene is good -- arguably better than Yvonne Ellison as an actress, though I think perhaps Ellison's voice was a little more suited to the music. That could just be because I've never heard anyone else perform it.This is NOT, repeat NOT, a movie to watch with your children. (Mature teens will do fine, but it's just too intense for the little ones.) There is some interesting costuming in the scene where Jesus is carrying his cross and the graphic intensity of the beatings/floggings/cruxifiction are very disturbing. That's part of what made this version more powerful for me. If you love the music and want to really feel the pathos of the last days, I strongly recommend this."
Pradon steals the show!
B. Hogan | Minnesota | 01/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The new re-working of "Jesus Christ Superstar" is not without its flaws. Because the cast is made up almost entirely of stage actors, techniques designed to be visible to a back-row audience seem over-acted when filmed in closeup. Glenn Carter as Jesus is not as charismatic as he could be, and after multiple viewings, I'm still not quite sure what to make of Rik Mayell's performance as King Herod.
However, Michael Shaeffer and Frederick B. Owens make an excellent dark duo. The apostles are energetic and talented. Tony Vincent's "Simon Zealotes" is a standout. Carter has a good voice, which is put to good use in songs like "Gethsemane."
And then, there is Jerome Pradon.
When I first saw "Jesus Christ Superstar," I was skeptical of Pradon's performance as Judas, largely because of his high notes, and the fact that he was not hitting them. I was disappointed and wished a stronger singer, like Tony Vincent, had been given the role instead. It wasn't until someone directed me to the Paris revival recording of "Les Miserables" (Pradon played Marius) that I realized that Pradon CAN hit those notes. It's Judas who can't. This seems very appropriate, as it stacks up as yet another thing Jesus has that Judas does not - the respect of large numbers of people, good looks, a beautiful woman, etc. At the end of the show, during the song "Superstar," we see Judas as he would have liked to be, singing almost pitch-perfect as he mocks Jesus.
Aside from this smart singing choice, Pradon is absolutely fascinating to watch. He plays the part superbly, putting his facial expressions to excellent use, and utilizing his entire body as Judas descends into madness. Though "Jesus Christ Superstar" is truly about the fall of Judas Iscariot, many production try to place the focus on Jesus. However, every time Pradon is onscreen, he rightfully steals the show back to where its focal point should be."