Bible movie of the week: Sins of Jezebel (1953)

On at least two occasions this year, I have grumbled about the relative lack of movies about the prophet Elijah.

He’s a very important figure in the Bible: not only is he one of two Old Testament figures who went straight to heaven without dying (the other is Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch), he is also one of only two Old Testament figures who appear with Jesus at the Transfiguration (the other is Moses). The Old Testament prophet Malachi predicted that Elijah would return before the great day of judgment, and Christians believe this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist, while Jews set a cup of wine aside at the Passover table in anticipation of Elijah’s return.

But has Elijah received the same sort of cinematic attention as Moses and Jesus? Have there been any epic blockbusters about his confrontations with the prophets of Baal and their royal patrons, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel? Alas, no.

But that’s not to say there haven’t been any films about Elijah. There are, in fact, a variety of short films and other shows that have covered these subjects, and yesterday I finally got around to watching the one feature-length film version of his story that was produced during the 1950s, when the Bible-movie genre was at its peak.
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Review: Elizabeth (dir. Shekhar Kapur, 1998)

elizabeth1998Historical films, at their best, can bring the past alive and transport their audiences back to a time when the world was brimming with possibilities. At their worst, they can make the past seem like a stodgy pageant of vaguely connected costume changes.

Elizabeth, the new film about the consolidation of political and religious power under Queen Elizabeth I, falls mostly into the former category, but it packs so many issues — not to mention 16 years of tightly-woven history — into its two hours that there is little room left in which to engage with these characters on a more personal and dramatic level.

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