Before I put a finger on the keyboard, I admit this is probably heresy, at least to some people. One simply doesn’t make fun of religious movies. It is simply not done. Especially not these days.
But I do.
Last night, Marilyn and I watched “The Ten Commandments.” We don’t watch it for its high level of religious sentimentality. While Cecil B was going for life-altering moments, he gave us some much-needed laughter. It isn’t a movie that has stood up well to the years. Time tested it — and found it wanting.
Every year when some big religious holiday rolls around, the lineup of movies on our favorite cable stations includes all the familiar biblical movies. Few are watchable even a few years past their shelf date, much less stand ye olde test of time. Most are obviously well-intended, like George Stevens’, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But the man who gave us classics like “Shane”, “A Place In The Sun” and “Giant”, wound up with a ponderous and static film in “The Greatest Story.” Its biggest sin? Boring. Truly dull.
As I write, we are watching Mel Brooks’, “History of the World-Part One.” This movie is the perfect antidote to historical films that have become parodies or which were not really all that good in the first place. We probably have a greater appreciation of history because of Mel’s equal opportunity insults rather than the cardboard epics which play fast and loose with facts.
I must admit I love watching gladiator movies. It’s a guy thing, like war films. I also enjoy seeing semi-clad (or even lesser clad) young women engaging us in erotic dances before evil monarchs who are not playing with a full deck. We’re not talking about great cinema here.
Charlton “Call me Chuck” Heston was really honest when he talked about playing Moses. He told me it was a good gig. Working with Cecil B. DeMille (for a second time) was good for his résumé. It gave him a boost for the religious epic he really wanted to do — “Ben Hur.”
“Ben Hur” is one of the few good religious films to come out of Hollywood. William Wyler’s fine direction and brilliantly done stunts using real live (and one who died) human being — were spectacular. No computer generation. It hadn’t been invented. The chariot race alone is worth the price of admission.
This is obviously subjective stuff. If you love Cecil B’s heavy-handed narration of his version of the Old Testament, so let it be written. So let it be done. Meanwhile, we’re back with Mel. It’s the French Revolution and those generously endowed girls are displaying their charms.
It’s good to be the king!