Jesus Christ Superstar

Dir: Norman Jewison, 1973


I showed this film to my stepdaughters, and the response I got from the eldest one was, “what’s it about?”. I’m glad I didn’t ruin the ending.

A modern cast of actors stage the life of Christ and his crucifixion, within a contemporary setting.

Based on the award winning 1970 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, this cinematic adaptation is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, with one of the best soundtracks ever produced.

Reprising his role as Jesus from the Broadway production, Ted Neeley looks every bit the part from how the saviour is, often, depicted.

Following Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert’s coinage of the term “rock opera” for the 1969 album Tommy, what we have here is a veritable opera of rock, mingled with slow ballads and the, occasional, jaunty tune.

For reasons that are, purely esoteric, Neeley was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award; an awards ceremony for personalities in the film industry who are deemed to have performed poorly in a particular film.

While not the greatest actor, he does have an undeniably powerful vocal range and can belt out Lloyd and Rice’s songs as if they were tailor made for him.

But the acting doesn’t, really, come into it as there is no spoken dialogue and the musical is carried by the strength of the songs.

The highlight of the film is Josh Mostel as King Herod. Flamboyant and camp, Mostel prances around his swimming pool performing a Busby Berkeley-type routine to a greatly infectious number that won’t leave you.

Tubby with gold chains and sunglasses, Mostel is wonderful in a tacky and garish way.

Featuring a cast of stage actors, they do a good job of transitioning to the screen, a feat that not everybody is able to do.

You have to wonder why none of the actors ever had more of a presence in Hollywood.

Carl Anderson is Judas Iscariot, playing the infamous traitor with a selfish aggression. Judas’s redemption after his suicidr from the guilt, is an Elvis Presley-esque showstopper, with backup dancers and nothing short of what you would see in Vegas.

The style of the film was ripe for parody and, over the years, has seen God or Jesus depicted as rock star-like. There is no better spoof than Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade’s BBC Three Christmas special, AD/BC – A Rock Opera.

A video production of the stage play was released in 2000, with the concept the same but updated to a more modern setting. An amazing reproduction, the cast included a one song role for Rik Mayall as King Herod.

Jesus Christ Superstar has a rocking score and can be enjoyed by anybody, religious or not.I

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