In the Beginning
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From the people who created the made-for-TV special-effects extravaganzas "Merlin" and "Arabian Nights" comes "In the Beginning", the story about the travels and travails of the tribe of Abraham (Martin Landau). Set around the year 2000 B.C., the narrative opens with "Genesis 12," wherein the Lord has kicked Abraham and company out of their country to a land of milk and honey to be named later. In order to keep up the morale of his followers while on the road, Abraham gives a sermon that sums up God's creation of the universe. By illustrating this sermon with stock footage and special-effects shots, the producers are obviously making a connection between sermons of old and popular entertainments of today. From there, the twists and turns of the Old Testament are treated like a soap opera. Family dramas take center stage, whether it's God testing Abraham by telling him to kill his son in sacrifice, Joseph (famous for his amazing Technicolor dream coat) gaining power in Egypt after being sold to slave traders by his brothers, or one of the many other stories of brothers fighting (Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, etc.). The events that have been visualized in movies before (the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, to name but two) pale in comparison to their earlier incarnations, but the bigger picture is that "In the Beginning" works best as the Bible for beginners. "--Andy Spletzer"
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It starts with Abraham, as he travels to the land of Canaan, in about 2000 B.C., and along the way he recites the narrative of the Creation (which has some nice visuals), the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, their temptation (the fruit here looks more like a small fig in a very thorny tree) and their expulsion from Eden.
There are some fine performances, among them Martin Landau as Abraham, Jacqueline Bisset as Sarah, Bill Campbell as Moses, Amanda Donohoe as Potiphar's wife, and Fred Weller as Jacob. Eddie Cibrian as Joseph seems at first out of place, looking more like a modern day hunk, but he grows with the part, and has the most touching scene in the film, when he is reunited with his father Jacob. In the small part of Jethro, the great Alan Bates is marvelous. Other name actors include Diana Rigg (mature Rebeccah), Geraldine Chaplin (Yocheved), David Warner (Eliezer), and Christopher Lee is a theatrical, entertaining Ramses I.
At times there's quite a bit of license taken with scripture (for instance, there is some incredulous dialogue between Moses and Jethro after the parting of the sea, where Moses doesn't seem to have much faith in God), and similar to other TV Bible films, the parts that take place in Egypt are full of gaudy sets and costumes, as well as some characters who have an almost Alice Cooper look in the makeup department, especially Pharaoh's magician (Victor Spinetti).
Filmed in Morocco, with lovely cinematography and score, this one is certainly worth a rental if you like Bible epics.