Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 3 out of 10
Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman
Genre: Musical, Religious, Historical
Other Versions:Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)
Because I had just watched the 2000 version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic "rock opera," I thought it was time to review this one as well. Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical sensation that details the last few days of Christ's (Neeley) life through the eyes of Judas Iscariot (Anderson).
I had quite a few issues with this version of the film. Although I love the music, and enjoyed the "Millennium" edition quite a bit, this movie was greatly lacking. It takes place in the deserts of Palestine, where a group of actors drive up in a bus and proceed to act out the story of Christ's passion. There were minimal set pieces, but lots and lots of expansive sand, which was very boring after a while.
My biggest issues were with the acting. Not to be mean, but Ted Neeley cannot sing. At least, not well enough to play the role of Jesus. Also, I felt as though his performance was greatly lacking in emotion; he was very flat. Carl Anderson's Judas was better, but even his singing was not the best. Joshua Mostel, who played King Herod, some sort of creepy bi-sexual beach bum with a mixed harem of guys and girls covered in paint and body glitter. In my opinion, the only actors who sang well were Bob Bingham as Caiaphas, Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene, and Barry Dennen as Pontias Pilate.
While the 2000 version of Jesus Christ Superstar focused on Judas as the main character, this movie pushed him into the background, making it hard to understand what his motivation was for his betrayal. Jerome Pradon's Judas was distressed, overwrought, and easy to sympathise with. You could understand his motives, whether you agreed with him or not. Anderson's performance left me scratching my head, wondering what his justification was, seeing as I didn't understand it myself. Whereas Pradon seemed to be doing everything for the greater good when Jesus wouldn't listen to him, Anderson just seemed to be smoldering in his own jealousy of what Jesus had.
All in all, I found this whole film to be a huge disappointment. If you're interested in this rock opera, I would suggest staying away from this production and watch the 2000 version instead. It's so much better!