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Peter T Chattaway

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935)

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FWIW, my latest Bible movie of the week.

(One day I would really like to do these on a weekly basis... and I guess I almost did, during the Hail Caesar / Risen / The Young Messiah season, which prompted me to also write up a post on the 1980s film A Child Called Jesus -- but I didn't call any of those write-ups "Bible movies of the week" because I want to reserve that term for older films, or at least films that are not currently playing in theatres. (A Child Called Jesus is an older film, but I didn't call *that* a "Bible movie of the week" because I wrote it up the same week I reviewed The Young Messiah, and it just seemed to me that it might be kind of weird to suggest that *that* was the "Bible movie of the week" when a bigger, more high-profile film was also coming out that week.))

Anyway, back to The Last Days of Pompeii: it was produced by the producer/director/effects team that made King Kong and Son of Kong (both 1933), and it stars Basil Rathbone as Pontius Pilate (the same year he dueled Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, three years before he dueled Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and four years before he starred in his first Sherlock Holmes movie). In some ways it's a typical 1930s melodrama, but for me it's really interesting as possibly the *only* Hollywood movie made during the '30s or '40s (excepting 1949's Samson and Delilah) that depicted any biblical events in their original historical setting. The biblical elements are only a small part of the film, but they're key to the story, and just getting a *taste* of them filtered through the early-sound-era aesthetic makes me wonder what an entire movie based on the Bible produced during this era could have been like. (DeMille's The Sign of the Cross, produced in 1932, comes close, but it takes place a few years *after* the book of Acts and doesn't cover any biblical material that I can recall.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This is a promising series. I can't wait until you get around to reviewing Moon of Israel and The Big Fisherman!

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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I actually wrote a post on The Big Fisherman two and a half years ago -- but I have since come into possession of a longer version of the film (which someone recorded for me off of Turner Classic Movies a year or two ago) and hope to revisit that film at some point.

I've had a really beat-up copy of Moon of Israel for a while and have been waiting for a chance to watch it with my mother, who can translate the German intertitles for me.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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