Both pioneering films on this DVD depict well known incidents in the life of Jesus Christ. In quite different ways, both were also ambitious milestones of the young, relatively untried 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 Jésus-Christ was begun in 1902 by Ferdinand Zecca (1864-1947) for Pathé Frères in Paris, then the most important film company in the world. Zecca made 18 carefully costumed and staged tableaux against painted backdrops which are clearly influenced by the famous Biblical woodcuts of Gustave Doré (1866). In 1903, Pathé Frères developed 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. 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, Doré 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 sinkhole 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.
Speed Corrected Digital Transfers from Excellent Film Materials
Life and Passion is in Full Pathe Stencil Color, From the Manger to the Cross is Color Tinted
Digital Stereo Score for Life and Passion Compiled and Performed by Timothy Howard at the 100-Rank Aeolian Pipe Organ, Pasadena (California) Presbyterian Church
The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ
Length: 44 minutes
Director: Ferdinand Zecca
From The Manger to The Cross
Length: 71 minutes
Director: Sidney Olcott
Starring:Robert Henderson-Bland, Percy Dyer, Gene Gauntier, Alice Hollister
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
Recorded by Philip Calvert
From the Blackhawk Films® Collection
Presented by Flicker Alley