Star Trek and Abraham director Joseph Sargent dies at 89

josephsargent-aJoseph Sargent, an Emmy-winning director who worked on many TV shows and occasional films such as Colossus: The Forbin Project and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, passed away today at the age of 89.

Sargent played a key role in two of the genres that I follow on a regular basis.

First, in 1966, he directed an episode of the original Star Trek series called ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’. It was the first regular episode of that series, following the two pilots, and it was also the episode that introduced the world to Dr McCoy, Lt Uhura and Yeoman Rand.

Then, in 1993, he directed Abraham, one of the first TV-movies produced as part of ‘The Bible Collection’. It starred Richard Harris and Barbara Hershey as Abraham and Sarah (this was only five years after Hershey played Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ), and while it meanders a bit — just like the biblical Abraham did — it’s a fairly decent adaptation of the biblical story.

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Interview: The Red Tent director Roger Young on bringing humanity to Bible stories, the four kinds of love in his new miniseries, and getting Ben Kingsley to play a teenager

rogeryoungIt’s quite possible that Roger Young has directed more feature-length Bible-themed films than any other mainstream filmmaker. Cecil B. DeMille made four or five for the big screen — including two about Moses, one about Jesus, one about Samson and one that takes place shortly after the Book of Acts — but Young, who has worked almost exclusively in television, now has seven such films under his belt.

Between 1995 and 2000, Young directed five installments in the Lux Vide “Bible Collection” series, starting with Joseph — which won the Emmy for best miniseries — and continuing with Moses, Solomon, Jesus and St Paul. More recently, he has revisited some of those stories by directing adaptations of Bible-themed novels.

Last year Reelz aired his adaptation of Par Lagerkvist’s Barabbas, which takes place partly during the ministry of Jesus. And now, on Sunday and Monday night, Lifetime will air his adaptation of The Red Tent, the Anita Diamant novel that tells the stories of Jacob and Joseph through the eyes of their daughter and sister Dinah.

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Abraham and the Three Visitors: five filmed interpretations

Fred Clark posted an item last night in which he expressed surprise that the story of Abraham and the three visitors in Genesis 18 is a lot stranger than he had thought. For one thing, Abraham and the visitors eat a meal that mixes meat and dairy, and would therefore be regarded as non-kosher by many of Abraham’s descendants. But, more crucially, Clark notes that one of the three visitors — who are often called “angels” — seems to be God himself. A walking, talking, eating God.

Personally, I’m surprised that Clark is surprised by that last bit, partly because it has always seemed clear to me that one of the three visitors is God himself. It’s certainly implicit in the text itself — not least because, after God finishes “standing” with Abraham and discussing the fate of Sodom with him, only two of the three visitors arrive in Sodom itself. Presumably God himself was the third visitor.

But beyond the text itself, nearly every single dramatized version of this story that I have seen has suggested that there was something different about one of the three visitors. So I had always assumed that that was a standard interpretation of the text, if not the standard interpretation of the text.

Here is how five different films and TV shows have dealt with this story.

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Flashback: Reviews of yet another Bible TV series.

Bible movies have been on my mind lately, for obvious reasons, ranging from the hit TV series The Bible (two episodes down, three to go!) to the recent news about certain rival Moses movies. Since this is a genre that I’ve been covering for almost 20 years, I’ve been thinking of re-posting some of the articles I’ve written about earlier Bible movies and TV shows.

And what better place to start than the Lux Vide series The Bible Collection? This 13-part series of TV movies — which, yes, started with Creation and ended with Revelation — was produced between 1993 and 2002, and I reviewed every single one of these films, in seven articles written between 1996 and 2004 as each film (or each boxed set of films) was released to home video in North America.

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Top Ten Jesus Movies

They’ve been making films about the Son of God for over a century. Here’s one man’s list of those that ascend to the top of the cinematic pack.

Of the making of movies about Jesus, there is no end. In the first three months of this year alone: Son of Man, which casts a black man as Christ and sets his life in modern South Africa, got positive reviews at Sundance; the makers of Color of the Cross, which also casts a black man as Christ, established a website with trailers for their work-in-progress; and New Line Cinema announced that Oscar nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) will star as the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth in a new movie about the Nativity, to be released in time for Christmas.

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Review: Paul the Apostle (dir. Roger Young, 2000)

Numerous films have been based on the Gospels, but few have been based on the Book of Acts. Even when filmmakers make a point of depicting stories from across the Scriptures, the early church tends to get left out; a typical example is the otherwise excellent series of British-Russian animated films that began with Testament, a collection of nine half-hour episodes from the Old Testament, and ended with The Miracle Maker, a feature film about Jesus. As finales go, the death and resurrection of Jesus are pretty hard to beat.

Thankfully, some filmmakers do explore the work of the apostles once in a while. The best examples to date are probably the 1985 mini-series A.D., which does a marvelous job of depicting the joy that animated the Jerusalem church but gets increasingly sidetracked by secular history and fictitious love stories between soldiers, slaves and gladiators the further it moves into Gentile territory; and the 1981 TV movie Peter and Paul, starring Anthony Hopkins, which takes superb advantage of the autobiographical information in Paul’s epistles.

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