The Movie Pool takes in the Biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told on Blu-ray!
ASPECT RATIO: 2.75:1 enhanced for widescreen TVs
RUNNING TIME: 199 minutes
AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish Dolby Surround, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
SUBTITLES: English for the hearing impaired, French
SPECIAL FEATURES: "He Walks in Beauty" Documentary, "The Filmmaker" Documentary, Deleted Scene, Theatrical Trailer
The life of Jesus Christ is given a faithful rendition by legendary filmmaker George Stevens, the man behind classics like Gunga Din, A Place in the Sun, Giant, and The Diary of Anne Frank.
This Biblical epic was widely criticized upon its release for being too long and using too many well known actors (like John Wayne), that turned the attention away from the story. Critics were correct about the use of big movie stars, but as time has passed their use is not as glaring. Most people will still notice John Wayne as the centurion at the Crucifixion, Sydney Poitier as the man who carries Christ's cross, and Charlton Heston as John the Baptist. Max Von Sydow plays a Jesus with proper reverence, but it seems a bit stiff compared to Jim Caviezel's take in The Passion of the Christ or even Henry Ian Cusick in The Gospel of John.
The movie is still too long, but given the fact that Stevens wanted to create the definitive film of Christ that incorporates the look of art masterpieces, one can forgive the length. Every shot is painstakingly framed to look like a piece of art. Stevens began his career as a cinematographer, and it is obvious the look is important here, even if it takes time.
Obviously, this movie isn't meant to be enjoyed over popcorn and cokes on a Saturday afternoon. Like a trip to the museum, it must be visited every so often and be appreciated. This is an absolutely beautiful film with some incredible moments. The Ascension scene to end the film, with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah playing, is incredibly moving.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Upon playing my Blu-ray, a notice pops up telling me the film has been restored using the best available elements. That's usually not a good sign. Indeed, while the image is much sharper than previous releases, detail in the actors faces is soft. Some film grain is present, and considering what an epic film this is, I'm surprised better film elements weren't kept.
Audio is fairly good, considering this is a 45 year old film. A 5.1 sound mix really brings the music to the forefront and voices are deep and rich.
There doesn't seem to be much new material here. The two documentaries are old, probably from a previous DVD release. The "Filmmaker" documentary looks to be a promotional piece from the release of the film. It does have some interesting moments, but surely there was more in the archives than this. A deleted scene and a trailer round out the extras.
BUY IT, REDBOX IT, OR NETFLIX IT?
SPECIAL FEATURES: C
OVERALL GRADE: B-
Fans of Biblical epics will flock to the Blu-ray,as it does give the best possible image available now. Without more special features, or perhaps the release of the original longer version of the film, there isn't enough here to earn more than a rental recommendation. It would be a good choice to rent from Redbox or Blockbuster for Easter or Christmas.
The Greatest Story Ever Told is now available on Blu-ray in stores and online.