My friend Matt Page is starting a series of posts over at the Bible Films Blog on the question of canonicity and Bible films. Among other things, he asks: Is there a “canon” of Bible films, independent of the biblical canon itself? And is there a reason why certain biblical stories get filmed again and again while others go ignored?
The Bible was a big hit on cable TV. Now it’s a big hit on video, too, as various sites are reporting that it became the top-selling mini-series ever on DVD and Blu-Ray last week, as well as the top-selling TV release of any sort on DVD in five years. And that’s not counting the various online distribution methods.
Ordinarily, success of this sort would guarantee one thing: that other studios and networks would try to replicate the mini-series’ success by producing biblical TV shows and movies of their own. So I’d like to make a plea to any studio or production chiefs who might happen to come across this post.
Three down, two to go! Here are my first impressions of the third episode of The Bible, which ended the Old Testament section of the mini-series and began the New Testament section.
Continuity between Bible stories, redux. For all my grumbling about the series to date, there is one thing about it that I have always appreciated, and that is the way it links the various Bible stories, whether by having characters in one story recall what their ancestors did in another, or by having the angels appear in multiple stories wearing the exact same clothes, etc. And the first half of this episode is seriously impressive on that level.
The Passion of The Christ was an independent movie, paid for entirely out of Mel Gibson’s pocket. The Prince of Egypt was an animated film that emphasized the common ground between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Last Temptation of Christ was a low-budget art-house flick based on a heretical novel.
You would have to go back at least as far as King David, the mid-1980s box-office flop starring Richard Gere, to find another live-action movie produced by a major Hollywood studio and based directly on the Bible. And you would have to go back even further — to the bathrobe epics of the 1960s, at least — to find a mainstream biblical movie that was as blatantly Christian as The Nativity Story.
MANY FILMMAKERS have turned to the Good Book for story ideas, but they haven’t always turned those ideas into good movies. The genre’s highs and lows are both on full display in The Bible Collection, an ambitious series of TV-movies that has been produced over the past eight years, and isn’t quite finished yet.
The first four films covered the Book of Genesis in warts-and-all detail, and dealt matter-of-factly with some of the racier episodes that Sunday School classes tend to ignore. Three of these films, focusing on Abraham and his descendants, starred well-known British, American and Australian actors and were broadcast on the Turner network in the United States. One, Joseph, won the Emmy for outstanding mini-series in 1995.