Gerald Mast and Bruce P. Kawin, A Short History of the Movies, 5th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), p. 21; Roy Kinnard and Tim Davis, Divine Images: A History of Jesus on the Screen (New York: Citadel Press, 1992), p. 27.


Kinnard and Davis, Divine Images, pp. 29–33 passim, 46. I count six films on Salome in this period, five of them eponymous and the sixth titled A Modern Salome.


Charles Musser, The King of Kings (Santa Monica, CA: The Criterion Collection, 1992), laservideo.


The intertitles in Intolerance trumpet Griffith’s use of recently discovered cuneiform tablets.


William D. Romanowski, Pop Culture Wars (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 52.


Karl Brown, Adventures with D.W. Griffith (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), p. 137.


Les and Barbara Keyser, Hollywood and the Catholic Church (Chicago: Loyola Univ. Press, 1984), pp. 170–171.


The fact that Jeffery Hunter turns in such a weak portrayal—the film has been derisively nicknamed “I Was a Teenage Jesus”—didn’t help.


Kinnard and Davis, Divine Images, p. 161.


Released in America in 1966.


Oswald Stack, ed., Pasolini on Pasolini (London: Thames & Hudson, 1969), p. 14.


Stack, Pasolini, pp. 94–95.


Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), p. 71.


Contrast Pasolini’s adaptation with that of The Gospel According to Matthew (1995), the first installment in The Visual Bible, directed by Reghardt Van den Bergh. Van den Bergh is, if anything, even truer to the text of Matthew than Pasolini—the narrator interrupts with a “he said” or a “she asked” every time someone speaks—but Van den Bergh’s interpretation emphasizes joy and smiles, not anger. Thus he tries to make the Sermon on the Mount more watchable by turning Jesus into a sort of stand-up comic who dumps water on his disciple’s heads between sayings.


In one song, Norman makes the connection between Jesus and the hippies through footwear: “I’m looking for the footprints of the man who wears the sandals.” This, despite the fact that Jesus instructed his disciples not to wear sandals (cf. Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:4). The connection between hippies and the Jesus movement has since received a somewhat notorious boost from historical scholarship in John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), p. 421: “They were hippies in a world of Augustan yuppies.”


Harry Medved and Michael Medved, The Golden Turkey Awards (New York: Berkley Books, 1981), p. 127.


Franco Zeffirelli, Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus, trans. Willis J. Egan, S.J. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984), pp. 6–7. Even when Jesus chases the money changers out of the Temple, Zeffirelli accentuates the awe and respect with which Jesus esteems this central symbol of the Jewish faith: When Jesus looks up at the Temple ceiling, the following point-of-view shot is identical to one that Zeffirelli used earlier, when Jesus was 12 years old and his father Joseph instructed him in the sacrifice of lambs (although, according to Luke 2:24 [cf. Leviticus 12:8], Joseph and Mary could not afford lambs and so sacrificed doves instead).


Outside the wedding at Cana, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding devoid of physicality: “God’s the bridegroom, man’s spirit is the bride.”


This contained more than a hint of Gnostic misogyny. In a scene with eerie parallels to the Secret Book of John 13:12–14, a serpent tells Jesus that he created women as a trap for men. (Yaldabaoth’s serpentine form is described in Secret Book of John 6:6.)

Also, see Margaret R. Miles, Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), chap. 2, for an exploration of how Scorsese’s overemphasis on sex, in addition to his rejection of politics, reflects the “fundamental conservatism” of Last Temptation of Christ.


Leviticus 19:28.


Ken Eisner, “Scorsese on The Last Temptation,” The Georgia Straight, August 26, 1988, p. 9.


George Perry, Life of Python (London: Pavilion Books, 1983), pp. 167–169.


Quoted in the video Life of Python, directed by Mark Redhead (Paramount Home Video, 1990).


Brian’s frustrations echo those of Jesus himself, who provoked his listeners to think for themselves (e.g., Matthew 18:12) and complained on occasion that his followers’ minds were too dull (Mark 7:18). A key difference, though, is that Brian discourages the formation of any sort of movement, whereas Jesus encourages the formation of his own sect. Where Brian tells the crowds to “f—off,” Jesus stays and teaches them because he is filled with compassion (Mark 6:32–34).


For a thorough and fascinating study of Arcand’s use of allegory, see Bart Testa, “Arcand’s Double-Twist Allegory: Jesus of Montreal,” in André Loiselle and Brian McIlroy, eds., Auteur/Provocateur: The Films of Denys Arcand (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995), pp. 90–112.


A trained historian, Arcand encountered similar problems with producers and censors in 1964 when he produced a short film on Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec City, in which he suggested that Champlain was a pedophile (Loiselle and McIlroy, Denys Arcand, p. 138).


For example, see the aforementioned Gospel According to Matthew by Reghardt Van den Bergh and the two-part “virtual reality” film The Revolutionary (1996–1997), released through the Trinity Broadcasting Network. See also James Barden’s anachronistic The Judas Project (1992), which sets the life of Jesus in 20th-century America with a first-century vocabulary.