on May 24, 2005
It's absolutely fabulous. Please note buyers that if you want closed captioned and you don't see it listed in the description, not to fear because it does have closed captioned in English. In order to get the closed captioning in English all you need to do is make sure that the option for closed captioning is turned on through your television instead of your DVD/DVR player(s). This applies to any DVD that says closed captioned is available but does not allow for an English option. It has everything the regular edition has plus a few more extras. I was really impressed with the quality of the picture as well as the sound. Also, because it's a widescreen version as well when you choose to use the closed captioning it doesn't get in the way of the picture which is a nice advantage. I believe you'll love it. The music is extraordinary. Ted Neeley was wonderful and Carl Anderson is extremely talented. It's a rock opera not a musical and every song tells the story. Truly ingenious the way it was produced. The fact that it was shot on location in Israel gives it the authenticity you don't always see in films. I recommend buying the soundtrack as well. You can't beat the wonderful price either.
on March 26, 2004
I've been a big fan of JCS ever since the concept album came out. Over the years, I have come to appreciate Norman Jewison's interpretation, as well as his magnificent landscape shots, more and more. For me, this telling of the Jesus story is much more moving than Mel's Passion, thus my extreme disappointment after buying the DVD version when I discovered that a simple transfer of the film to DVD had been made. Unlike the restoration effort of many other transfers, in this case, there was no attempt to upgrade the sound when it was put into a 5.1 format. In other words, the film was literally copied straight onto the DVD version with all of the tape hiss, high frequency machine noise, and other assorted crackles. Perhaps Universal didn't feel the extra effort was warranted due to financial concerns, but in a film where the sound is crucial, this lack of attention detracts from the viewing experience. This being said, the DVD is still worth owning, particularly for an economical 15 bucks or less. Just beware of the sound quality.
on April 7, 2001
It took me almost two years (and a recent viewing of the new JCS movie) to fully appreciate the masterpiece that is Jesus Christ Superstar, the 1973 film. Told entirely through catchy, rock opera music, it tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ, but is hardly a literal interpretation and consists mostly of the drama between Judas and Jesus. The point of the film is to show the bible in a new way- that everyone, even Jesus's closest disciples helped contribute to the death of Jesus through their inescapable humanism. Filmed in the Jerusalem desert, the production is wonderful. It's as if the best singers, film makers, dancers, musicians, and songwriters (Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice) came together for this one movie. Carl Anderson stars as Judas and is arguably the best performer to ever perform the role. Ted Neeley is fantastic too even though it takes a while to "get" the strenghth in his underacting. Norman Jewison, who's experience and creativity as director shines through with every scene, takes the musical to another level, using a brilliantly conceptual theme that is introduced at the very beginning of the film. The locations are beautiful and fit perfectly within the context of the story. The film has great music, the ideas it tries to get across are poignant, and it is much, much better than the new film in its directing, acting, choreograpphy, and singing.
on January 23, 2000
Though it may seem dated, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is still a film worth checking out. Ever since its origin as a concept recording, the subject and how it was presented caused its controversy for the time. The film may not be what everyone expected, but it is visually incredible. The sunsets over the Israeli deserts are awesome. The music, though not groundbreaking, is still some of the best work Andrew Lloyd Webber has written, as well as the lyrics of Tim Rice. The performances are incredible, notably Carl Anderson as Judas and Ted Neely as Jesus. Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene) and Barry Dennen (Pilate) are the original actors of the concept album and Broadway adaptation of the rock opera. Scenes worth relishing: Heaven on Their Minds; The Last Supper; Gethsemane; and the title song. For early 70s nostalgia, the choreography in "Simon Zealotes" is fun. An added bonus on the DVD presentation is the dubbed French soundtrack. If I'm not mistaken, the singers are the same ones who performed in the Paris, France stage production of the early 70s. View with an open mind and enjoy!
on June 22, 1999
This video is an absolute gem. When I saw the movie on release in the cinema I sobbed my heart out. It wasn't just that I knew this story didn't have a happy ending: its themes of love and betrayal, looking for redemption and coping with grave doubt struck a deep chord which stayed with me all my life. The key scenes are extraordinary - the rage in the Temple, Jesus' and Judas's confrontation at the Last Supper, Pilate's bafflement, the turmoil of 'Gethsemane' leading up to the heartrending climax. All the performers play their parts with empathy and verve. I love Ian Gillan, but Ted Neeley is superb as Jesus, his voice managing to convey virility and vulnerability - and the camera loves him. Carl Anderson's portrayal of Judas is both passionate and sympathetic. I was delighted to read that over 20 years later these two actors were still working together - their on-screen chemistry is great. Tim Rices's excellent lyrics, the 60s guitars and the audacious filmic techniques (which could've only been attempted with a straight face in the 70s) combine to make this a powerful portrayal of Christ's final days that will linger with you for a long, long time.
on May 18, 2013
Let's cut to the chase - for while I'd love to wax rhapsodic about seeing this as a youngster in 1973, growing up listening the sound track, etc.: the bottom line is, I want to help spread appropriate confidence to home theater buffs about the transfer quality.
In short: I feel it's a winner, based on my own viewing this week (Oppo player, Denon receiver, B&W speakers, and still pretty amazing but older Sony LCD - a modest budget home theater system). This viewing brought me sensually back to the original 1973 theatrical experience, much more than previous views of the 2004 DVD print of Jesus Christ Superstar (Special Edition) (1973). I replayed a few segments of that DVD in comparison with this newly remastered Blu-Ray, as well.
I'm dumbfounded to have seen several negative reviews on this same page by customers who felt the sound track was not only substandard but even, in their words, atrocious or bad. It's not. I heard and saw detail, richness, and balance that were well suited to a remastered 1973 release. Colors were somewhat muted at times, but still popped. The Blu-Ray lifted a visual fog that I hadn't even realized was present in the DVD. And the audio rendition delivered a remarkably pleasing tonality, balance, and dynamic range, in my experience. I heard layers that I was not previously aware with the DVD.
My experience was echoed by the review at Blu-ray dot com which gave the film 3.5 /5 (video) and 4.0 / 5 (audio).
This is not a 5.1 remix, though. It's a faithful and pleasing presentation of the original 4 track stereo (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0).
Now, for the rest: the casting, the score, performances and orchestration still blow me away, after all these years.... as does the clever theatrical presentation against the beautiful desert backdrop. Cinematically, it's not intended to be a groundbreaking film; it's more conventional and uses a couple of dated visual techniques, but as a creature of its time, that isn't a bad thing.
How can you go wrong with a well priced, well transferred, remastered classic?
on April 15, 2006
I first saw this movie as a teen. I knew all the songs, as kids with cool older brothers and sisters all had the record the nuns wouldn't let us hear. So of course we listened, and as with all forbidden fruit,it was OK. When I saw the movie in the 70's I was very disappointed. I had my own personal vision of the opera, one very dissimilar to Mr. Jewison's ( and likely different from Mr.'s Rice and Webber.) The mixing of guns and spears, scaffolding and ruins, tanks, planes and caftans was an anachronistic mess. It seemed a waste.
Since then my tastes have matured, and this holy week I decided to treat my daughter to some religious movies: Godspell, Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ Superstar. I always like the first, relished the second, and was embarrassed for the third. To my surprise, things have changed. Godspell has not aged well ( though it still bounces) as the hippie Jesus is very dated. ( "Daddy, why is Jesus a clown?") Jesus of Nazareth is a pondering, overly earnest mess. While reverent, it is now lugubrious. (" Daddy, can I sleep now?"" Why does his mommy (at the crucifixtion) look younger than Jesus"?) But Superstar was a revelation.
Ted Neely was a very good, not great choice, fair in voice, and rugged for a first century man. He had an air of confidence and understanding, with an insight his apostles had not yet gained. Simon Zealots was over the top, but he was a zealot. Pilate was more pious than I expected, Annas and Caiaphas were inspired. Josh Mostel is a fine comedian for a singer, as Herod. Yvonne Ellimnan in fair voice ( more on this later) as Mary Magdeline. But it was Carl Anderson, positively mesmerizing as Judas, who made the movie.A choice I felt seemed almost racist in 1974, now seems inspired. While Judas was always the center of Superstar, Anderson sings and acts through the gamut of emotions, making it his film. I will never again think of another in ths role.
The planes and tanks and guns are now seen symbolically, and what once seemed anachronistic is now timeless. The starkness of the locale puts the show first. The dancing, which at the time seemed very over the top, seems appropriate in a post MTV world.
Sure there are problems. It still has a hippie edge, but it has aged much much better than the other two discussed above. The sound on the DVD is an abomination, as stated in other reviews. It should be remixed and released again. Some of the daring camera techniques ( slowing the dancers down, stuttering them etc.) seem "tricky" and distracting. But overall I enjoyed this more than I ever thought possible.
If you are looking for a literal biblical film, this is not it,( but then neither is the Passion of the Christ or any other blockbuster). You will never please all people, and I am certain there are those who view a movie like this as sacrilege. To each their own. For me, it really is a nice movie, and if you put aside your own preconceived notions of what Superstar should be, you might enjoy it a lot. I know I did. Buy it, rent it, give it a try.
Jesus Christ Superstar was Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice's first major success. The rock opera was first a concept album that exploded on the charts hitting number one and spending almost a year in the top ten and unleashed Murray Head on the world. It was then made into a successful Broadway play starring Ben Vereen. In 1973, respected director Norman Jewison (In The Heat Of the Night, Fiddler On the Roof) brought it to the big screen. The film was shot on location in Israel and that gives it an authentic feel. There is no dialogue in the film, everything is sung in true opera fashion. It kind is like a forerunner of the music video in that fact. Mr. Jewison mixes the biblical setting with modern nuances such as guards carrying machine guns, tanks and planes appear and at the beginning of the film, the cast arrives by bus and at the end it leaves on the same bus. The beginning of the film shows the cast setting up what appears to be a play. They get into costumes and set up for the play. The movie focuses on the last seven days of Jesus and Ted Neeley appears in the title role. The movie focuses on Jesus' relationship with Judas, who is played by Carl Anderson. The plot likens Jesus to a modern-day rock star, who rises above all the other prophets due to the hype-machine. Judas thinks that Jesus is believing the hype and moving away from his humble roots. He turns traitor in the belief he is helping the nation. At the end, we are left wondering if this was just a play or was it real as all the cast members get on the bus except Mr. Neeley. The movie fades out quite powerfully in the sunset on the cross. The movie moves along through the series of songs and is well choreographed. The album, play and film were highly controversial due to its take on the Passion of Jesus, but putting religious beliefs aside, it is an excellent film.
I saw this film the week it came out and though I've never been a Christian, it had a powerful affect on me given its depth of humanity, the stark beauty of the physical landscape (shot in the desert outside Israel; so harsh were shooting conditoins that heat exhaustion and unclean water kept Yvonne E., and others quite ill with dysentery). The unforgiving intensity of the landscaps made the intensity of the emotional landscape so much greater, as do the solid performances and simple direction. Jewison seems to stay out of the way, allowing his actors and dancers to work without having to compete with the sort of flashy camera-work we were just then beginning to see. They are all nearly swallowed up by the enormity of the space and light of the desert, and this somehow makes us feel that what anyone doing what Jesus was trying to do--speak simple truths in the face of the religious and political climate of the time--all the more against-the-odds impossible. Between the Roman occupation and the near impossibility of survival in the harsh climate, ordinary humans seem smaller even than we really are, and the idea of a "personal God" (rather than the rule-laden Hebrew traditional God) and the idea of living in a state of genuine, unselfish love, rather than surviving at all costs and fearing a distant and paternal God, to be impossible notions given this context. Jewison successfully makes this "strange land" an actual character in the story, adding a dimension that Rice and Webber never captured on their album. In fact, I believe it was this choice that made the film a success--we are mesmerized by the concept of attempting to bring about any sort of change in such a place, at such a time.
While many have complaints about this entire project, from initial recording to the making of this film, to even now, picketers at performances of it, I have to say that of all the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber projects, only this one seems to have come from any real passion (excuse the pun), rather than from calculation. Compared to the later emptiness of "Cats" it is quite rich. The greatest bit of genius comes from having made the primary emotional relationship between the spiritual purist Jesus and his politically savvy right-hand man, Judas, rather than the traditional focus on trying to define the exact nature of the love that existed between Jesus and Mary (as though such a thing is possible in any context). This unusual angle on the story brings out an entirely different set of human truths than the more common approach. How does a man, Judas, who is more literal minded, seeing the mission as one of political change by an occupied people, deal with the pragmatic problems caused when he is partnered with a spiritually focused man--one who is being driven by love and not practicalities, not mindful of the price he and his followers may pay for spreading his message (or rather, willing to pay that price and therefore ignoring the coming crisis)? The best writing is therefore given to Judas, both lyrically and musically, and Carl Anderson is extremely compelling in the role, even during the final number ("Jesus Christ, Superstar") which now seems so dated (white lace leather fringed jumpsuits and white Afro wigs); his grounded performance makes them unimportant. From the first moment as the rest of the cast get off the bus which has brought them to the location and dance, get into costume, interact, etc., Judas is already walking off alone--a man whose path has already separated him from the rest of the group's. Anderson is also the final one back on the bus; both he and Yvonne pause and look around them in exhausted awe at the bleak desert, and the viewer feels Anderson has himself changed as a result of playing this difficult and complicated role. We don't see Neely again, reinforcing the physical absence of Jesus. The bus acts as bookends for the film, and while probably the actual mode of transportation for the cast to and from the desert, it reminds one, too, of the refurbished school buses of the 60's/early 70's as alternative homes and communal travel vehicles.
The use of modern things combined with ancient perpetuates the truth that these problems are on-going and inextricably connected to human existence regardless of time and place. Particularly the guns, tanks, planes which serve to represent Judas` conscience (in two brief scenes in the desert that bookend Judas' betraying visit to Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin on their fabulous scaffolding set) and then to represent what will soon become a state of continual warfare, springing from the use by others of Jesus' ideals, are effective, and right now, all the more relevant, especially in the context of the Middle East and its endless "holy" wars (an oxymoron if ever there was one).
Two new songs were written for the film, making the story-telling more coherent. The first, the conversation between Annas and Caiaphas about "What then to do about Jesus of Nazareth?" which shows the political and self-serving decision the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling body) felt themselves forced to come to in order to manage the political uprising that Jesus' teachings seemed, from their point of view, to be in danger of causing, was an excellent decision that filled a hole in the original score, and explained the fears these powerful men were experiencing. The second, a rather annoying plea from Mary and Peter,"Could we start again, please," is less interesting, both musically and from the story-telling point of view, but it does pose the question that most never stop to think about--"what happens to us now that you're gone and we have given up our old lives?" The confusion of Jesus' followers must have been terrible, and pondering it helps to explain how the fanatical Paul (formerly Saul) who had never even met Jesus, was able to step in and assume the leadership position that resulted, 30 years later, in the writings of the first four books of the Aramaic books by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as they tried to remember what they had experienced, as well as the rest of Aramaic books. Many people are unaware that the writings the various branches of Christianity would be founded on originated with the ideas of Paul, rather than Jesus, as he was the only one of the two who wrote anything down, and that he made all the rules that came later, after Jesus' death. (It is not my intention to get into a theological discussion here or criticise anyone--merely to point out how the song, "Could we start again, please?" articulates the dilemma that led to Paul's place in history.)
There are also additional verses in Pilate's trial scene which point out that Pilate has no crime on which to pin any charges, let alone an execution, on the innocent Jesus, as well as a heart-stopping extra verse in "Hosanna," wherein the crowd asks the suddenly alarmed Jesus, "Would you die for me?" (a freeze-frame is used to good effect as time stops for a moment as the question seems to hit the smiling Jesus like a slap in the face), and these additions help to tell the story. And unlike the more than a hundred changes director Alan Parker requested of Rice and Webber in order to make "Evita" less dangerous and more Madonna- and audience-friendly (and which resulted in a disaster the great Patti LuPone, Broadway's original Evita, never even went to see), these couple of changes helped to tell the complex story more fully, rather than diluting it, or making it less controversial (which it was at the time).
The exuberant dancing, while specific to the period, is still great fun to watch, and the lovely molasses-and-velvet voice of Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene is matched by her earthy and understated portrayal of a woman trying to understand the nature of her feelings for a man so far outside of her own experience. It's nice to have the character, rather than the writers, wrestle with the problem--it's another example of how the Tim Rice and Norman Jewison let the actors do the work, rather than doing it for them. Most other story-telling about the "passion of Jesus" fixate on Mary and try to answer questions for us, rather than just letting her be in the story, dealing as all of us have to when our worlds are turned upside down and we find ourselves on a ride we don't fully understand but need to be on. I found that to be a refreshing change, and as pivotal to why this story works as the Jesus-Judas relationship. While Ted Neely may not be the greatest actor around, he does a good job of humanizing Jesus--which as I understood from the interviews at the time, was the goal of the entire project in the first place. He is especially good in the intense "Garden of Gethsemane" scene, where he grapples, questions, then accepts the by-now inevitable fate he is facing, and any time he and Anderson have serious work to do together.
There are other nice, subtle details, too, such as the silent but very present wife of Pilate, who advises him via shakes of the head and exchanged looks--keep an eye on her as she tries to keep her husband from falling off the tightrope he's found himself on. Dennen keeps his performance simple yet quietly tormented, and we are filled with sympathy for a man who has been swept up in events he neither understands nor can control, which is a nice change from the usual simplistic demonizing of Pilate. Herod, the most powerful Jewish king, and who was notorious for the very Romanic decadence of his court, is parodied with great humor by a loony Josh Mostel (a nice break from the growing atmosphere of doom). Again, none of the characters are presented in the way we expect, and this may be the biggest reason "Jesus Christ, Superstar" works.
After the bizarre Broadway staging of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera, the film version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" had to be a more traditional offering. Producer-Director Norman Jewison filmed on location in Israel, using natural settings and sparsely constructed sets for what is essentially a string of music videos (since it was written as a studio album first, the music presents problems for moving from one scene to the next). The framing device for the film is the cast arriving/departing by bus. Ted Neeley's voice is suited to the role, but certainly he is the shortest Jesus I can recall seeing in films. Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen remain from the original studio album and Broadway production as Mary Magdalen and Pilate, which is perfectly all right. However, it is clearly Carl Anderson as Judas who gives the best performance in the film. The film version suffers from the inadequate voices of several of the supporting cast members (most notably Josh Mostel as Herod) and the grossly reduced chorus of singers which never comes close to matching the number of bodies on screen, and there are a few unintentional laughs (as when Israeli tanks come over the dune and chase Judas). But the use of paintings depicting the crucifixion and the final shot of sheep being herded past the cross the cast leaves behind on the hill, are particularly effective. Of course as with most movies, if you want to watch it you want to get a hold of the widescreen edition, otherwise you cannot appreciate the Last Supper tableau or just enjoy the compositional elements of the shots. Every Easter weekend I watch this film, even if I do not have time to do all of "Jesus of Nazareth" or "The Greatest Story Every Told." The only thing radical here is the music, but I still have to think it qualifies as the requisite joyful noise.