[box cover]

Jesus Christ Superstar

This gospel according to Judas, set to a vibrant rock 'n' roll score, made for a brilliant concept album and provocative piece of theater. As a movie, however, under the misguided hand of director Norman Jewison, Jesus Christ Superstar finds itself more mired in camp than controversy. Fresh off a wonderful film version of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, Jewison pushes his luck setting this Biblical story in modern-day (1973) Israel as told by a traveling troupe of hippies, freaks, and transvestites, covered in glitter and fright wigs. Although much of the music retains its power, the performers are horribly abused and misused, and some of them (namely Kurt Yaghjian as the priest Annas) should never have been singing the first place. Perhaps overcome by the beauty of his locations, Jewison opts for set-pieces over subtext. The best moments of the film belong to Judas (a kick-ass Carl Anderson) and Mary Magdelene (Yvonne Elliman) as they struggle to understand the man they follow. As Jesus, however, Ted Neely is awful, always out of his depth, and portraying one of the most influential leaders in history with all the charisma of a floor mop. Faith aside, if Jesus were at all like the wimp Neely portrays him as, Christianity would've died out in about 33 A.D. A mixed bag, and beautifully filmed, but doomed by anachronism to the cult closet. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, but the 5.1 Dolby Digital re-mix is heavy on the hiss. Textual supplements, trailer.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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