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The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition)

4.3 out of 5 stars 599 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Additional Features

For any fan of George Stevens's expansive epic on the life of Christ, this restored version returns the film to its cinematic splendor. The print quality is magnificent. In one important way, the film even plays better decades after it was produced in 1965: the bevy of cameos is not as distracting. This mellowing-over-time approach was apparently part of Stevens's plan as revealed in one of two documentaries. A 20-minute segment made in 1965 is thinly veiled public relations but works as an intriguing time capsule capturing how massive moviemaking once was, with its large tent cities built to house cast and crew--in this case, in the remote areas of the Southwest. The new documentary is longer but is pieced together from the older featurette and interviews made for the 1984 documentary George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey. This film--labeled the "Roadshow Edition"--plays 199 minutes, just a smidgen longer than the standard cut. It's still an hour shorter than Stevens's rarely seen original cut. --Doug Thomas

Special Features

  • 2-disc set
  • New documentary including on camera interviews with the director and cast
  • Original "Making Of" documentary
  • Deleted Footage
  • Photo gallery
  • Production Stills

Product Details

  • Actors: Max von Sydow, Dorothy McGuire, Charlton Heston, Michael Anderson Jr., Carroll Baker
  • Directors: David Lean, George Stevens, Jean Negulesco
  • Writers: George Stevens, Carl Sandburg, Fulton Oursler, Henry Denker, James Lee Barrett
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    G
    General Audience
  • Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 6, 2001
  • Run Time: 199 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (599 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000056H24
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,161 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Greatest Story Ever Told (Special Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 15, 2004
Format: DVD
This film is often compared with the 1961 "King of Kings", and "Jesus of Nazareth", but this one is by far my favorite of the three, because of the exquisite beauty of it, and Max von Sydow's powerful portrayal of Jesus; his performance has a strength and boldness that is lacking in the other two, and therefore for me much more believable. Sydow was only known to fans of Ingmar Bergman's films at the time, having starred in the Swedish director's "The Seventh Seal" among others, and was a surprise choice to play Jesus, and a good one. He does a marvelous job, and I especially like the scene after Lazarus has died...it is brilliant, and very moving.
George Stevens' vision of the story has a stark majesty, and is taken at a leisurely pace; it is also quite verbal, with some of the major events in the gospels not pictured, but spoken of instead.
Filmed in Arizona and Utah, the cinematography by Loyal Griggs, who took over from William Mellor when Mellor passed away during filming, is glorious. There are scenes that have the composition and balance a fine painting, with extraordinary detail, often framed by doorways or windows, and it's a film I never tire of just looking at. Graphic artists should make a point to see this film, as there is much that can be learned from it. Alfred Newman also wrote a lovely score (with a little help from G. F. Handel) which adds to the aesthetic appeal of this film.
In the huge star-studded cast, some performances are truly memorable, like Claude Rains as a bitter and devious Herod, and Jose Ferrer excellent as his son Herod Antipas; Charlton Heston's ferocious, wild-man John the Baptist is impassioned and perhaps more like the actual Baptist than some of the tamer portrayals.
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Format: VHS Tape
"The Greatest Story Ever Told" is certainly the most reverential treatment of the life of Jesus. The 1965 movie was based on the book by Fulton Oursler, which integrated the four Gospels into a single narrative. To appreciate this task just look at the different versions of what Jesus said on the cross according to each Gospel. Reconciling the various versions is not an easy task and while viewers may question some of the specific choices, the only really significant alteration is the death of Judas by throwing himself into the sacrificial pit of the Great Temple, a symbolism that is unnecessarily heavy handed.
The choice of Max Von Sydow to play Jesus is an interesting selection to say the least. His slight Swedish accent and closely cropped beard are certainly in keeping with the reverential tone of the film, but I can not help wondering if this was something of a reaction to the more populist Jesus portrayed by Jeffrey Hunter in "King of Kings." After all, this was 1965 and the Beatles invasion was underway making male hair length a hot issue. This is a Jesus who is too solemn and too sedate for the most part. There is a nice moment where one of the new disciples comments that he likes Jesus' name. The smile and "Thank you" that follow are one of the few glimpses of the charisma of the man from Galilee.
The strength of the film is in the gorgeous cinematography by William C. Mellor (who died on the set of a heart attack) and Loyal Griggs, and scene composition under the direction of George Stevens. The opening narration goes from the opening verses of John shot over ancient Christian murals to a shot of the manager, ending with a shot of the hand of the baby Jesus as the narrator announces in a most simple manner, "The Greatest Story Ever Told.
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Format: DVD
The Greatest Story Ever Told is a huge epic movie that boasts an impressive cast full of Hollywood notables. The movie follows the life of Jesus from his birth in a stable in Bethlehem to his teachings with his disciples all the way to his crucifixion and Resurrection. Because the film is so huge, many parts of the life of Jesus are just skipped over and talked about later by characters who saw it happen or heard about it. This is surprisingly effective to show how quickly Jesus' notoriety spread throughout the area. There are several very good scenes done with no sound except for Alfred Newman's fantastic score even though we know people in the background are screaming at Jesus as he walks by carrying the cross. One particularly effective scene involves Simon of Cyrene, played by Simon Poitier, helping Jesus carry the cross after he has fallen. As Jesus gets up, he grabs onto Simon's arm who helps him go on. It is a very short scene, but nonetheless very moving.
The cast for this movie could go on for pages. Max von Sydow gives an excellent performance as Jesus Christ, although he might not look like the usually accepted idea of Jesus. Charlton Heston and Telly Savalas also give very good performances as John the Baptist and Pontius Pilate. The film also stars David McCallum as Judas, Jose Ferrer as Herod Antipas, Dorothy McGuire as Mary, Martin Landau as Ciaphias, Donald Pleasence as Satan(although he is credited as the Dark Hermit), and many others. The film also stars Michael Anderson JR, Roddy McDowall, Victor Buono, Ed Wynn, Sal Mineo, Ina Balin, Carroll Baker, Van Heflin, Jamie Farr, and so many more. There are several very small cameos most notably John Wayne, Shelley Winters, Sidney Poitier, and Claude Rains all of which are pretty good for how small they are.
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