Thursday, July 19, 2007
THE BIG FISHERMAN
THE BIG FISHERMAN (1959, USA, Frank Borzage, Howard Estabrook / Roland V. Lee screenplay from Lloyd C. Douglas novel)
The forties and fifties were big decades for big fat Biblical novels and big budget big screen adaptations. Big big BIG! I've got a soft spot for these "you were there" paperbacks about characters who were in one way or another affected by Jesus, penned by middle-initialled writers like Frank G. Slaughter, Thomas B. Costain and Lloyd C. Douglas. I share their fascination with the fact that God Was Here, I like the way they reach after incarnation, the way they try their darnedest to take us there. For me, thought, they’re best on the page, where my imagination can supply a certain grittiness, where I can imagine the dialogue being spoken by real human beings. They work less well on the screen, where mannered mid-century acting and semi-convincing, far too lavish sets render unbelievable these attempts at believing the unbelievable.
Peter is the coolest of the disciples (that's why they made him Pope), THE BIG FISHERMAN was the best of the best-selling Bible bio books, and the film version wanted to be just as swell. It did nab Oscar noms for design, but its Academy Award aspirations were crushed beneath the thundering chariot wheels of another para-gospel spectacular (that also starts with “B”), BEN-HUR. FISHERMAN didn't make enough of a splash to have become available on video yet, but when it does, I'll be renting it: in the meantime, I'll just have to reread the book.
QUO VADIS?, THE ROBE, SALOME, DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS, THE SILVER CHALICE, BEN-HUR, BARABBAS