[box cover]

The Bible

Certainly, Hollywood studios have been making religious pictures since the silent era, but after the success of The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959), filmgoers were treated (or subjected) to a series of big-budget Cinemascope Biblical epics — one after the other — to diminishing returns. In part this was because the films were less religious in nature and more akin to cinematic faddism, like ironic horror films in the wake of Scream. But among this era, John Huston's 1966 The Bible is something of an anomaly — it doesn't focus on Jesus or Moses, but rather covers the first 22 chapters of the Book of Genesis. Among the many sampled characters and events are the Divine Creation of Adam and Eve (Michael Parks and Ulla Bergryd), their children Cain and Abel (Richard Harris and Franco Nero), and Noah (played by Huston himself, who also narrates the film). However, while the source material has a rich tapestry, Huston dedicates most of the film's 180-min. running time to the struggles of Abraham (George C. Scott). The Bible not a bad idea, but unfortunately any one episode of Genesis could make for a good movie; taking in the lot of it leaves the audience as adrift as Noah, hopelessly looking for a narrative but cast from one story to the next like so many pitching waves, and the whole three hours will test the patience of most viewers. Huston covers his source-material dutifully and respectfully, but really — who needs a Cliffs' Notes version of this particular sacred text? The Ten Commandments works in part because it's a richly colored comic book, anchored by Charlton Heston's ornate performance, whereas The Bible proves that being respectful doesn't lead to sharp writing or great performances, but to wooden actors reciting stilted dialogue — something the film has in spades. It's only Huston's skill as a director, and his apparent interest in this project, that make it slightly more interesting than most of its ilk. Fox's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), with audio in DD 4.0 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Trailers, keep-case.

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