Sacred Classics Of The Silent Screen
Both pioneering films on this DVD depict well-known incidents in the life of Jesus Christ. In quite different ways, both were also ambitious cinema; both won world fame, huge audiences and a screen life of decades when most secular films of the time measured their commercial life in weeks.
La Vie Et La Passion De Jesus-Christ, N.S. was begun in 1902 by Ferdinand Zecca (1964-1947) for Pathe Freres in Paris, then the most important film company in the world. Zecca made 18 carefully costumed and staged tableaux against painted back-drops which are clearly influenced by the famous Biblical woodcuts of Gustave Dore (1866). In 1903, Pathe Freres developed a sophisticated system for applying up to four colors to each film print by a stencil process; that year and in 1904, ten new tableaux were added to the film. Finally, in 1905, Zecca's collaborator, Lucien Nonguet, added three final scenes, and the resulting color film of 31 tableaux with a running time of 44 minutes became the most impressive of its kind and one of the first long films in the world. Presented by missionaries and itinerant showmen from Indiana to Indochina, it helped establish the popular iconography of the Divine story. This edition is restored from two excellent 35mm original prints and presents The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ as it looked a century ago.
From the Manger to the Cross was made on location in Egypt and Palestine for the Kalem Company during the winter and spring of 1912. (A reminiscence of the filming is included as an insert in this DVD). The film is notable for restraint in presentation, all concerned being clearly aware of the special responsibility they shouldered in depicting the story of Jesus. Here again, as in many subsequent Biblical films, Dore supplied basic imagery. First shown October 14, 1912, it is one of the earliest American feature films, representing extraordinary faith not only in Scripture but also in long-form screen storytelling (although the film could also be shown in one-reel segments). Of course, that sink-hole of secularism, the ordinary movie theater, was regarded as unworthy of this spiritually exalted endeavor, which was exhibited with enormous success in special Sunday presentations, in concert halls and in other sites previously closed to cinema. This edition is mastered from a modern print taken from the original negative, which was re-titled later in the teens. From the Manger to the Cross was added to the National Film Registry in 1998.