Jesus of Nazareth (1912)

aka From the Manger to the Cross
Article 4115 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-25-2012
Directed by Sidney Olcott
Featuring Robert Henderson-Bland, Percy Dyer, Gene Gauntier
Country: USA
What it is: The tale of Jesus Christ

The life of Jesus Christ is told from the angel’s visit to Mary to Jesus’s ascension into heaven.

I do not gear my series toward the holidays, but this one came up spontaneously as my title for Christmas Day, which, though it can’t be called strictly a Christmas movie, is closer than I’ve ever gotten before. It’s listed in the Walt Lee reference guide for fantastic films due to the fact that many of the events (the angelic visitations, the miracles, the resurrection, etc.) qualify as fantastic content, and that is why I’m covering it. It is pretty much what I would expect of a silent treatment of the life of Christ; the movie forgoes Christ’s teachings for the obvious reason that this would swamp the movie with words, and emphasizes the highlights of Christ’s life story. I’m not surprised it’s very faithful; I doubt that the audiences for which it was intended would have tolerated anything else. The movie originally ended with the crucifixion of Christ, but a rerelease several years later added the Resurrection and Ascension sequences that were on the version I saw. This explains one thing I was curious about; throughout the movie, every title card consists of a direct Biblical quote (by verse and chapter) until after the crucifixion, when the technique is abandoned. All in all, it’s an acceptable adaptation for its era.

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