New to Blu-ray: Jesus of Nazareth: The Complete Miniseries

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Now available on Blu-ray and DVD via Shout! Factory, right in time for Easter 2016, Jesus of Nazareth: The Complete Miniseries. Billed as the "40th Anniversary Edition" (in truth, a year earlier; it premiered in March 1977), the 371-minute production is an endurance test for viewers, if nothing else. The "all-star" cast won't hold much appeal for viewers under 50 (unless they're big-time movie buffs), which includes Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene, Ernest Borgnine as the Roman Centurion, Stacy Keach as Barabbas, Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas... the list goes on and on. Great performers to be sure, but the whole affair just feels like what it is: a '70s made-for-TV movie.

Robert Powell portrays Jesus himself, but the only cast member to receive any Emmy love was James Farentino as Peter (nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Special). This sort of production definitely appeals to a niche crowd. If you're not part of it nobody can blame you for not being interested. I'll leave it to Biblical experts to debate the interpretation of the Gospels as presented here. For those disinterested in religious films, this will likely prove to be a nearly insurmountable endurance test. 

jesus of nazareth BD (302x380).jpg How is Shout! Factory's high definition presentation of this landmark television event? The 1080p transfer, framed at 1.33:1 (it's original broadcast ratio), offers a generally acceptable rendering of cinematographers Armando Nannuzzi and David Watkin's work. The whole thing has a period look, with some shots looking a little soft, some looking excessively grainy. The source materials have seen better days, but while it's not perfect (print damage is occasionally evident) it's good overall.

Audio is also reflective of the period during which Nazareth was produced. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is straightforward in all respects, but exceedingly clean. Fans of the miniseries should be pleased to hear the whole thing in lossless quality.

Fans of Jesus of Nazareth can look forward to two significant special features on the Blu-ray. "Michael York: John the Baptist" is a 30-minute piece focused on, as the title makes plain, actor Michael York and his role as John the Baptist. Longer and more of general Biblical/Jesus interest is the hour-long "Jean Pierre Isbouts on the Historical Life of Jesus."

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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