4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a majestic, beautifully filmed epic
This film is often compared with the 1961 "King of Kings", and "Jesus of Nazareth", but this one is by far my favorite of the three, because of the exquisite beauty of it, and Max von Sydow's powerful portrayal of Jesus; his performance has a strength and boldness that is lacking in the other two, and therefore for me much more believable. Sydow was...
Published on July 15 2004 by Alejandra Vernon
3.0 out of 5 stars A film full of beautiful images - think moving paintings
In our time of fast cuts, limited character development, and two-word dialogue, this movie could not be made. It is visually beautiful and is a bit like watching moving paintings rather than moving pictures. I find the slow pace more exquisite and beautiful than long and boring. There are things that should be experienced in long phrases and bathed in time rather than...
Published on Aug 28 2003 by Craig Matteson
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1.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Story Never Told,
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Movie About Jesus!,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)The Greatest Story Ever Told is one of my favorite movies about Jesus. My favorite movie is Jesus of Nazareth but I like this movie too and I think Max Van Sydow and Charlton Heston were very good as Jesus and John the Baptist and I think the only flaw with this movie is with all of the cameos by popular Hollywood actors, some were good but others were badly miscast but that doesn't distract from what a wonderful movie this is and from the actors who really were right for this movie and gave brilliant performances. I had this movie on tape and I'm wanting to buy it on DVD and I recommend The Greatest Story Ever Told very greatly and I rate this 5 stars just for the excellent acting by Max Van Sydow and Charlton Heston!
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Flawed, But Imposing All The Same,
Although it doesn't exactly stick to the letter of the Good Book, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD still depicts the life of Jesus from his birth to his eventual crucifixtion and resurrection with remarkable accuracy. Several scenes, including Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, are among the most moving ever filmed. Stevens, who co-wrote the massive tome of a script with James Lee Barrett and Carl Sandburg, filmed on location amongst the vast panorama of the Colorado River basin along the Utah/Arizona border as a stand-in for the actual Holy Land, a move for which critics seemed unable to slam him enough, but which I think worked anyway. Three composers--Alfred Newman, Hugo Friedhofer, and Fred Steiner--are credited with the massive score, and the use of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from George Frideric Handel's great oratorio "Messiah" was a cagey choice on Stevens' part.
One aspect about GREATEST STORY that obviously continues to raise eyebrows and no shortage of ire to this very day is the fact that Stevens seemingly cast half of Hollywood's acting elite in what were primarily cameo roles. This had been done before in films like THE LONGEST DAY and HOW THE WEST WAS WON, to name just two, and would be done again and again in the coming decades. I think that Stevens' flaw was not that he cast so many Hollywood heavyweights, but that he placed a number of them into roles they probably weren't cut out for.
Max von Sydow had the ultimate acting challenge of portraying Jesus of Nazareth here; and given the weight and expectations of Western civilization being imposed on him, he came off extraordinarily well. Charlton Heston, no stranger to Biblical epics he, also gave a tremendous performance as John the Baptist, one that one would expect from an actor of his stature. Telly Savalas, years before "Kojak", gives a steely portrait of Pontius Pilate; and Donald Pleasance, many years before HALLOWEEN, makes a very convincing Dark Hermit (a.k.a. Satan).
In the other roles, Stevens' choice of casting ranges from interesting (Roddy McDowall, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy McGuire, David McCallum) to a bit questionable (Robert Blake, Sal Mineo, Pat Boone [though Boone's later conversion to Christian music makes his presence here far less jarring now than it did then]). But even now, Stevens' casting of John Wayne as a Roman centurion during the Crucifixtion scene is hard to swallow. It's hard to mistake Wayne's drawl with the one line he has ("Truly, this man was the son of God"), and just as hard not to crack a smile at the flat way he renders it.
Still, despite the occasional miscating, the extreme length, and the near-impossibility of getting it 100% correct for everyone, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD is quite an achievement in cinematic history. Without a whole arsenal of special effects to work with, but with an imposing reputation all his own, Stevens made a definitive Hollywood epic that perhaps needs to be re-examined--hopefully in the original state that it was released.
3.0 out of 5 stars A film full of beautiful images - think moving paintings,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)In our time of fast cuts, limited character development, and two-word dialogue, this movie could not be made. It is visually beautiful and is a bit like watching moving paintings rather than moving pictures. I find the slow pace more exquisite and beautiful than long and boring. There are things that should be experienced in long phrases and bathed in time rather than crushed in a time compactor. The story of the life of Christ seems the most appropriate for this treatment.
I do find the huge vistas in the west rather strange because I have seen a great deal of footage from the Holy Land. Yes, this movie could not have been made in the historical setting, but the huge and coursing River Jordan in this movie is awfully different than the more-creek-than-River Jordan. But, setting the setting aside as dramatic license, I do find Max von Sydow's performance beautiful.
What is most interesting about this movie is that none of the action seems life-like, but it all seems so appropriate and right for the story it is telling. As I said, think of moving paintings and you will get a better idea of what to expect when you see this film.
Is it a great film? I think there are films about Jesus that are more appealing to me. But as von Sydow points out in one of the extras on the making of the movie, everyone has their own view of where Christ fits in and it is impossible to make a film that won't disagree with someone's settled view. I think this is a very good film that holds up well for what it intended to be. For my taste, by showing the miracles it clearly shows the miraculous nature of Jesus, but it doesn't seem to come down firmly enough on his Divinity. It seems to want to have it both ways, the final Christ in the Clouds notwithstanding. But that is my view.
One of the criticisms of the film in its time was that the many cameos by famous stars were distracting. In the documentary Stevens is quoted as saying that the day would come when no one would know the stars in those cameos and would just see the film. My children are that generation. I have to tell them who all these stars were. But they have a hard time with the pace of the film because they are used to much quicker cuts and a different kind of film language. I encourage them to just sit back and bathe in the beauty of the images and listen to the language and the spaces between the words as music.
In my view, it is a film very much worth watching and there is much that is masterful in this film, but I think it falls somewhat short of being a truly great film although Sydow gives a great performance as Jesus.
5.0 out of 5 stars A huge sprawling Biblical epic,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)The Greatest Story Ever Told is a huge epic movie that boasts an impressive cast full of Hollywood notables. The movie follows the life of Jesus from his birth in a stable in Bethlehem to his teachings with his disciples all the way to his crucifixion and Resurrection. Because the film is so huge, many parts of the life of Jesus are just skipped over and talked about later by characters who saw it happen or heard about it. This is surprisingly effective to show how quickly Jesus' notoriety spread throughout the area. There are several very good scenes done with no sound except for Alfred Newman's fantastic score even though we know people in the background are screaming at Jesus as he walks by carrying the cross. One particularly effective scene involves Simon of Cyrene, played by Simon Poitier, helping Jesus carry the cross after he has fallen. As Jesus gets up, he grabs onto Simon's arm who helps him go on. It is a very short scene, but nonetheless very moving.
The cast for this movie could go on for pages. Max von Sydow gives an excellent performance as Jesus Christ, although he might not look like the usually accepted idea of Jesus. Charlton Heston and Telly Savalas also give very good performances as John the Baptist and Pontius Pilate. The film also stars David McCallum as Judas, Jose Ferrer as Herod Antipas, Dorothy McGuire as Mary, Martin Landau as Ciaphias, Donald Pleasence as Satan(although he is credited as the Dark Hermit), and many others. The film also stars Michael Anderson JR, Roddy McDowall, Victor Buono, Ed Wynn, Sal Mineo, Ina Balin, Carroll Baker, Van Heflin, Jamie Farr, and so many more. There are several very small cameos most notably John Wayne, Shelley Winters, Sidney Poitier, and Claude Rains all of which are pretty good for how small they are. The Special Edition DVD offers the widescreen presentation, theatrical trailer, making of documentary, an altered scene during the crucifixion scene, still gallery, and a filmmaker's documentary. For an excellent look at the life of Jesus, if somewhat sanitized, check out The Greatest Story Ever Told!
1.0 out of 5 stars Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do...,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)A classic example of overblown insensitive Hollywood biblical-epic filmaking. Unlike the sensitively told and awe-inspiring King Of Kings, TGSET is an overlong and unmoving experience for the viewer from start to finish, from it's corny cinematography (which makes the movie look like a Hallmark greeting card come to life) to it's unbelievably crass casting, including Pat Boone, Shelly Winters, and most notoriously John Wayne as a Roman soldier("this truly was the son of Gaawd!"). Among all the hammy scenery-chewing acting, the only person to really shine is the wonderful Max Von Sydow who sensitively attempts to portray Jesus, though his Swedish accent kind of ruins everything. Film fans would be much better off buying King Of Kings or The Gospel According To Matthew.
1.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Case Where the Book is Better,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)Do not pick up your New Testament & follow along with this movie, the characterizations & plot move in & out of biblical history that I stop watching the movie 3 times without ever finishing the movie. Then again; we all know how the movie "Should" end. Maybe better written: How can you make a movie called "The Greatest Story Ever Told" while changing the plot of the greatest story ever told?
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)I really love this film. I don't really care that it isn't completely faithful to the Bible, I think this film captures the essence of Jesus' teachings better than the other films. Max Von Sydow is wonderful and convincing. And Charleston Heston steals the show as John the Baptist. A wonderful tribute to the greatest man to ever live. You can't go wrong with this one, get it!
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great and Moving film about Jesus,
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie, wish it had been longer!,
This review is from: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) (DVD)Reading the other reviews I lost count how many of them referred to this movie as "over-long". Frankly, one of my professors calls this "the McDonalds Mentality". Most people today, and the vast majority of us under 40 are so used to getting everything in soundbites, in between commercials, snacks (especially fast food), cell phone calls, etc. They don't have the patience to write a letter, cook a real meal, read a long book or savor a longer movie like George Stevens masterpiece "The Greatest Story Ever Told". I wish the DVD contained the original cut of the film, 260 minutes, as well as the present 195 minute presentation. The beggining of the film feels far to rushed. The ending of the film, fortunately, is sublime and true to the Gospel accounts of these profound events. A lifetime acheivment Academy Award is over-due for Max Von Sydow. Thanks for reading. CAL
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The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition) by Max von Sydow (DVD - 2003)