on 22 June 2009
Though I didn't buy this on Amazon, I discovered (through the Delicious Library application) that no reviews had yet been posted. So, here's the first.
This book offers several things. Firstly, a list of Biblical movies from the first silent movies to the most recent big-screen adaptation (in this case, Catherine Hardwicke's _The Nativity Story_, from 2006). At the same time the author discusses the rise and fall of the Bible as a popular source for movie-makers, and how Biblical movies played their part in the rise of the movie industry. The author also attempts to examine the relationship between the popularity of Biblical movies and events in contemporary society, which is often enlightening.
Then, there're the movies themselves. The author outlines the plot of several in detail--including DeMille's The Ten Commandments, Gibson's The Passion of the Christ--but where he only mentions a film in passing he generally points out both its good and bad features, in terms of Biblical faithfulness, production values and so on. There's also useful reference to and quotations of the opinions of those involved in the production of many of the more successful movies, such as Cecil B. DeMille, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Mel Gibson.
Finally, as for being (according to the blurb) "richly illustrated with film stills," this is a little (though admittedly only a little--"richly" is a politic word to use) misleading--in the 293 pages are found only 14 black-and-white stills (not including some passport-sized photos of pertinent individuals). However, I'd rather have more text and fewer pictures (the same way I feel about newspapers), so I wasn't disappointed. But don't buy this book for visual appeal.
On the whole, I find this book both enjoyable and informative. Whilst I thought that the process of describing important films in detail (often recounting a whole film over several pages) was perhaps a little excessive, it was done concisely and is largely useful. The author draws appropriate attention where plots deviate from Biblical evidence, but is even-handed and willing to accept that sometimes this is necessary for the medium.
That open-mindedness makes this a book for anyone interested in movies claiming Biblical provenance.