Son of God — the trailer is now online

It is not uncommon for TV shows made in one country to get theatrical releases in another; think of how some of Ingmar Bergman’s films, such as Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and its sequel Saraband (2003), were produced for Swedish television and released in American theatres, or of how Steven Spielberg’s classic TV-movie Duel (1971) got a theatrical release in Europe.

And it is not uncommon for popular TV shows to have big-screen follow-ups, from the Star Trek and X-Files movies to High School Musical 3 (2008).

But when was the last time a North American TV show got repackaged for North American theatres? Outside of festival screenings and similar one-shot presentations, when was the last time a studio asked people who had already seen a show on TV to pay for the privilege of seeing it all over again on the big screen?

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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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Bible movie of the week: The Big Fisherman (1959)

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post on The Big Fisherman (1959), one of the more obscure Bible movies ever released by a major Hollywood studio.

As far as I know, the film, which was originally distributed by Walt Disney’s Buena Vista division, has never been officially released to home video, at least not in North America. But I had read a bit about it in books on the history of Jesus movies — the title refers to the apostle Peter — and I was intrigued by the information I found at the Internet Movie Database.

For one thing, the film is based on a novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, who also wrote The Robe, which 20th Century Fox turned into a much more famous film in 1953. For another, it seemed that this film might rely on the secular account of Herod Antipas and John the Baptist given to us by Josephus, which no other film I could think of had ever done.

And what did the apostle Peter have to do with any of this? I had no idea, but I was curious to find out.

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The latest attempt to film all four gospels word-for-word

Every now and then, someone embarks on a quixotic quest to film the entire Bible, word for word. In the 1970s, the Genesis Project got as far as filming the books of Genesis and Luke, the latter of which was condensed into the Jesus film that is now distributed by Campus Crusade. More recently, there was the Visual Bible, which produced adaptations of Matthew and Acts in the 1990s and then, after a change of ownership, an adaptation of The Gospel of John in 2003.

Yesterday I came across what seems like a more modest project: an attempt to film all four gospels under the collective title the Lumo Project.

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How do you promote a Bible epic when you’re not religious?

Ridley Scott first revealed that he was making a life-of-Moses movie while promoting Prometheus last year. I’d been hoping that he would spill even more details about the film, now called Exodus, while promoting his latest film, The Counselor, but alas, that film didn’t get much of a promotional push (and it ended up having one of the worst opening weekends of Scott’s career).

A few tidbits about Exodus have trickled out, however. First, Scott told The New York Times: “I’m an atheist, which is actually good, because I’ve got to convince myself the story works.” And then, he told Empire magazine the film will be “fucking huge.”

Suffice it to say, this is not how Bible epics have generally been promoted in the past.

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Ben-Hur remake gets a rewrite, starts shooting in spring

From one 19th-century story about a free man forced into slavery to another…

Deadline reports that John Ridley, the screenwriter behind the much-buzzed Oscars contender 12 Years a Slave, has been hired to do a rewrite on MGM’s latest version of Ben-Hur, the 1880 Lew Wallace novel that the studio previously adapted in 1925 and 1959.

With Kazakh action specialist Timur Bekmambetov lined up to direct, Deadline says the studio plans to start casting “soon” and to start production “in the spring.”

Deadline also says the existing script is different from the 1959 film “in that it will tell the parallel tale of Jesus Christ, with whom Ben-Hur has several encounters which moves him to become a believer in the Messiah, and which culminates in Christ being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate.” Those things weren’t entirely absent from the 1959 film, but it certainly downplayed them compared to the novel and the 1925 film.

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