“The Forgotten Indiana Jones” — a filmmaker!


The silent era is a continuing source of fascination and frustration for Bible-movie buffs. Fascination, because religious themes were very common then, and filmmakers were often quite bold — for better and for worse — in how they developed these themes. And frustration, because so few of these films exist any more.

I am reminded of this once again because The Villages Daily Sun in Florida posted a story the other day on Dr. Edgar J. Banks, an archaeologist and so-called “original Indiana Jones” who also made some films — all of them, apparently, now lost to us:

Separating fact from fiction is difficult. Very little has been written about the adventurer who looked for the Ark of the Covenant, climbed Mount Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark, and left behind an impressive array of artifacts. . . .

The following facts are irrefutable: Banks excavated Bismya (the ancient city of Adab) during an expedition sponsored by the University of Chicago in 1903-04; he sold thousands of artifacts after returning to the States; and he spent several years lecturing and writing books and magazine articles.

And he made motion pictures with famed director Cecil B. DeMille. . . .

“They were involved in a company known as Sacred Films,” Wasilewska said. “The films were not only ‘Sacred,’ they were secret. The company wasn’t registered anywhere. But it really did exist.”

That incredible claim is supported by about 200 old movie stills from sets of Biblical epics Banks’ late daughter, Daphne McLachlan, left to her children.

“In 1920, at the beginning of moviemaking, a lot of people were making movies about Biblical events. But they were all poor-quality, low-budget productions,” Wasilewska said. “This was very different. This was high-class, very professional. It was a secret company, but many important people were involved, including famous actors and actresses.”

What became of the films is one of many puzzles related to Banks. . . .

I would very much like to get a peek at those old movie stills. I wonder if any of them might actually be from other biblical films of the era, however obscure, that we do know about.

(Hat tip to FilmStew.com for linking to the Daily Sun story.)

PG ratings — not really for grown-ups

Last year — following a controversy that partly concerned the question of what the PG rating means with regard to a film’s suitability for families — I kept track of all the G- and PG-rated films that cracked the weekly top ten lists, to see how many of them were aimed primarily at families or children, and how many of them were basically for grown-ups. Now that we are almost half-way through this year, I figure it’s time for an update.

The G- and PG-rated films that have cracked the weekly top ten lists so far break down into the following categories (with the ones that were #1 at the box office for at least one week in bold):

Family films (for children, tweens, or religious audiences):
  1. Happily N’Ever After
  2. Arthur and the Invisibles
  3. Bridge to Terabithia
  4. Amazing Grace
  5. TMNT
  6. The Last Mimzy
  7. Meet the Robinsons (G)
  8. Firehouse Dog
  9. Are We Done Yet?
  10. Shrek the Third
  11. Surf’s Up
  12. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  13. Nancy Drew
  14. Evan Almighty
  15. Ratatouille (G)

Inspirational true-story sports movies set in the ’60s or ’70s:

  1. Pride

Films for grown-ups that just happened to be rated PG:

  1. The Astronaut Farmer

As you can see, the bulk of the new films that got the G or PG rating in the United States have been “family” movies, just like last year.

JUL 4 UPDATE: I have bolded the above reference to Ratatouille, to take into account its #1 status last weekend.

This blog is rated R.

And all, apparently, because I used the words abortion six times, zombie twice, and death once. (Only once?)

Online Dating

Victor Morton at the Rightwing Film Geek blog (rated NC-17!) has some good comments on this test, the ratings system in general, and the attitudes that people adopt towards these ratings.

Canadian box-office stats — June 24

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Knocked Up — CDN $9,700,000 — N.AM $108,982,000 — 8.9%
A Mighty Heart — CDN $352,659 — N.AM $4,006,000 — 8.8%
Ocean’s Thirteen — CDN $7,990,000 — N.AM $91,013,000 — 8.8%

Shrek the Third — CDN $26,410,000 — N.AM $307,908,000 — 8.6%
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — CDN $23,830,000 — N.AM $287,015,000 — 8.3%
1408 — CDN $1,230,000 — N.AM $20,175,000 — 6.1%
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer — CDN $5,920,000 — N.AM $97,604,000 — 6.1%
Surf’s Up — CDN $2,770,000 — N.AM $47,313,000 — 5.9%
Nancy Drew — CDN $870,657 — N.AM $16,193,000 — 5.4%
Evan Almighty — CDN $1,510,000 — N.AM $32,112,000 — 4.7%

Amazing anachronism?


William Wilberforce and his friends and family sing it in Michael Apted’s Amazing Grace. And John Newton is moved to write it after he hears “an ancient East African melody” in Jeta Amata’s The Amazing Grace, which recently became the top-grossing film in Nigerian history. (It comes to the United Kingdom on July 16.)

But wait. Newton died in England in 1807. And Wilberforce died in England in 1833. But the first evidence we have of that famous melody being attached to Newton’s lyrics was not published until 1835. In the United States. And the melody — which went by the name ‘New Britain’ for years, even when ‘Amazing Grace’ was first recorded in 1922 — is “believed to be Scottish or Irish in origin“.

This is old news to some people, I’m sure, but I just heard about it this morning. Click here for more details. It’s fascinating stuff.

Evan Almighty — another junket report’s up!

My second report from the junket for Evan Almighty is now up at CanadianChristianity.com. One more is in the pipeline…


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