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"The Greatest Story Ever Told" - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: MGM
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
3/29/11
Special Features:

Two featurettes, HD trailer, deleted scene Rating: NR ---

Review:

Christ Almighty! No really it’s Christ Almighty in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. Although far from a classic film “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was most notable for featuring the first English speaking appearance of the great actor Max Von Sydow. Having played chess with death he fights the Romans and others in the first appearance on Blu-ray of this notable film. ***

Directed by George Stevens with additional work done by David Lean and Jean Negulesco when Stevens ran behind on the production, the film remains a unique and strange accomplishment with its numerous cameos of Hollywood stars in small parts (Claude Rains, Sal Mineo, Shelley Winters, Ed WynnCharlton Heston, Van Heflin, Angela Lansbury, José Ferrer, Martin Landau, Telly Savalas and even John Wayne) in a lumpy, uneven film that really is a child’s storybook posing as a film. Coming from director Stevens (“Shane”, “Giant” and “I Remember Mama”) who had tackled both epic dramas and smaller ones, this is a bit of a surprise. It’s as if he could never quite find his footing with his next-to-last film perhaps because of his own strong religious beliefs or simply because he couldn’t find a character to hook into for such a big, bold story. Some people may consider this to be the greatest story ever told but not necessarily told in the greatest fashion. The casting is brilliant for what it is worth—Von Sydow looks the part and carries the film well. David McCallum (“The Man from UNCLE” and best known today for “NCSI”) plays Judas while Charlton Heston chews scenery as John the Baptist. ---

Image & Sound:

Hardly a reference quality disc, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” needs an extensive restoration for Blu-ray. The version presented here has nice often bold colors but the film used for the transfer appears damaged and we get flicker which may have been caused by trying to modify the footage that doesn’t look very good by doubling the frame rate but reducing the time of each frame by half. This creates the illusion that the image is actually clearer, crisper and with finer detail than it really is tricking the human eye. Unfortunately, using this technique often leaves artifacts. ***

Audio sounds quite nice with composer Alfred Newman’s score sounding quite nice and surprisingly lush. Dialogue comes across crystal clear for most of the film.

Special Features:

“He Walks in Beauty”, “Filmmaker” are two featurettes on the production of the film. We also get an alternate scene that was prepared for the European version of the film and a theatrical trailer the only extra that is in HD. ---

Final Words:

By the time that “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was released it had a massive running time (nearly 225 minutes for the roadshow version of the film), a massive internationally well known cast and while it would seem to have a fool proof story to tell it was one that so overwhelmed the director that even he had a hard time editing the film to a manageable length. ***

The transfer looks good for its age and for the poor condition of the film itself (and it is in desperate need of a full restoration although it’s unlikely to receive it because of the cult following of the film—ironic given the subject matter) with the sound being one of the strong points here.

 

 
 
 
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