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posted: 4/11/2014 5:30 AM

Commanding epics: 10 big-screen Bible tales

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  • Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward star as "David and Bathsheba."

      Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward star as "David and Bathsheba."

  • Hedy Lamarr played the temptress in Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah."

      Hedy Lamarr played the temptress in Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah."
    Associated Press

  • Some stars just don't cut it in period epics. Richard Gere as "King David" is one of them.

      Some stars just don't cut it in period epics. Richard Gere as "King David" is one of them.

  • Conservative groups embraced Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," starring Jim Caviezel.

      Conservative groups embraced Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," starring Jim Caviezel.

  • "The Last Temptation of Christ," Martin Scorsese's 1988 take on the life of Jesus (Willem Dafoe), stirred controversy.

      "The Last Temptation of Christ," Martin Scorsese's 1988 take on the life of Jesus (Willem Dafoe), stirred controversy.

  • Despite its title and subject matter, "The Greatest Story Ever Told" -- starring Max von Sydow and John Wayne -- flopped at the box office.

      Despite its title and subject matter, "The Greatest Story Ever Told" -- starring Max von Sydow and John Wayne -- flopped at the box office.

  • "The Ten Commandments," with Charlton Heston as Moses, is the ultimate Cecil B. DeMille epic.

      "The Ten Commandments," with Charlton Heston as Moses, is the ultimate Cecil B. DeMille epic.

  • The animated "Prince of Egypt" gave the story of Exodus a musical spin.

      The animated "Prince of Egypt" gave the story of Exodus a musical spin.
    Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

  • Video: "Noah" trailer

  • Video: "The 10 Commandments" clip

 
 

With Passover and Easter right around the corner, and "Noah" showing across the country, here are 10 commanding biblical movies for your consideration:

"David and Bathsheba" (1951) -- King David (Gregory Peck) predates "Double Indemnity" when he sends a trusted soldier on a suicide mission so he can clear the path to the soldier's comely wife (Susan Hayward). The production values look spiffy.

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) -- In George Stevens' star-stuffed epic, Swedish actor Max von Sydow's blue-eyed Jesus turns out to be prescient, at least according to the upcoming fact-based family drama "Heaven is Real" that asserts he did indeed have "greenish-blue" eyes.

John Wayne's centurion caps this Hollywoodized tale with the line, "Truly, he was the son of God!" delivered with the actor's trademark cowboy cadence, in this context inadvertently comical.

"Intolerance" (1916) -- The "Judean" story about Christ's crucifixion is one of four tales told in movie pioneer D.W. Griffith's 3-hour silent epic, all about the evils of intolerance. Strangely enough, it's the briefest of the lot.

"King David" (1985) -- Some modern actors just don't fit into period pieces. Richard Gere is one of them, and he's miscast as the titular king in Bruce Beresford's lamentably lackluster story that demonstrates why staying too faithful to a book can make for a disengaged movie.

"The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) -- Willem Dafoe creates a compelling, conflicted Christ in Martin Scorsese's controversial drama based on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel. Satan tempts Jesus with sex and a normal human life as he struggles on the cross. Some critics charged this movie was a Jewish conspiracy, despite that both the novelist and director are Catholics.

"Passion of the Christ" (2004) -- Conflicted Catholic director Mel Gibson pulled off a miracle of sorts when he persuaded conservative groups to embrace a graphically violent, R-rated movie: his. Jim Caviezel's Jesus comes across as a regular guy in a movie so dedicated to historic accuracy that Gibson had his cast learn Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew. Then used subtitles.

"The Prince of Egypt" (1998) -- DreamWorks Pictures gave the story of Exodus an animated musical twist with Val Kilmer as Moses and a pre-Voldemort Ralph Fiennes as his brother Ramses. Songs composed by Stephen Schwartz, and sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.

"Samson and Delilah" (1949) -- Cecil B. DeMille directed this stilted Old Testament tale of a strongman (Victor Mature) subdued by a vengeful vixen (Hedy Lamarr). Co-starring Angela Lansbury as Samson's wife and Russ Tamblyn as Saul. Remade in 1996 and 2009.

"Son of God" (2014) -- Five episodes from the History channel's popular 10-hour miniseries "The Bible" are crammed together to make this feature film about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, here played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as a model on the cover of a Harlequin romance paperback.

"The Ten Commandments" (1956) -- DeMille's last movie is a remake of his own 1923 silent biblical epic. This time the role of Moses is played by Wilmette native Charlton Heston (an alum of "The Greatest Story," "Ben-Hur" and other epics). Yul Brynner plays Ramses. Unlike "The Prince of Egypt," nobody sings.

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