Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

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Released 5-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Audio Commentary-Norman Jewison (Director) And Ted Neeley (Actor)
Featurette-Interview With Master Lyricist Tim Rice
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 102:09
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Norman Jewison
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Ted Neeley
Carl Anderson
Yvonne Elliman
Barry Dennen
Bob Bingham
Larry Marshall
Josh Mostel
Kurt Yaghjian
Paul Thomas
Pi Douglass
Richard Orbach
Robert LuPone
Jonathan Wynne
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Andrew Lloyd Webber


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    While the idea of creating a musical about Jesus' last days might seem a little strange, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar became a ground-breaking rock opera. Produced and directed by Norman Jewison, Jesus Christ Superstar was also to become an entertaining and moving film.

    Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's collaboration on Jesus Christ Superstar was to become a milestone in musical theatre history. Jesus Christ Superstar was first released as a double LP album in 1970 (known as the brown album), and opened as a musical the following year on Broadway. An instant success, Superstar appeared on London's West End in 1972. Superstar went on to become the longest-running musical in London theatre history. (This record has since been surpassed by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.)

    Recounting from the Scriptures the story of the last week in the life of Jesus, Superstar dramatises Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, some of the unrest caused by his preaching and popularity, his betrayal by Judas, Jesus' trial before Pontius Pilate, and Jesus' crucifixion.

   The musical features many memorable songs and music, ranging from the rock flavoured title track, Superstar, to the oddly syncopated Everything's Alright, to the melancholy orchestral music accompanying the sadder moments. Indeed, all the songs are good, and each propels the story forward.

   Jesus Christ Superstar was cleverly adapted for the big screen by Melvyn Bragg and Norman Jewison. The film opens with a group of young players arriving to perform the musical on location (the desert in Israel). It's a very clever, minimalist, and post-modern production that captures the essence of the story. The performances by the three leads (Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, and Yvonne Elliman) are great, and the film also features great dance sequences, choreographed by Rob Iscove.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For a film that's about 30 years old, the transfer is very good.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. I had previously only seen this film on television in pan & scan, and seeing it in widescreen was liking watching it for the first time. The movie boasts brilliant photography (many scenes featuring the wide open desert vistas), and the composition of the shots is truly beautiful. To finally see it as intended is a real treat!

    Sadly, the image is often a little soft, and can lack definition, but it is certainly not to the point of being distracting. The shadow detail is also a little poor at times, and this is evident in the cave scenes at 14:51 and 42:37.

    The film features costumes of rich primary colours, set against the rich desert hues, and the transfer's colour is excellent overall.

    There were no problems with MPEG artefacts, but there are some serious problems with film-to-video artefacts in the form of aliasing. Anything that can shimmer does, such as the bus roof at 3:19.

    Not surprisingly, film artefacts appear throughout, but I never found them too distracting.

    English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles and English Audio Commentary subtitles are present, and both are accurate.

    This is a dual-layer disc, spread across 25 chapters, but I did not spot a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is good overall, but at times it sounded a little thin. It would be great if it could be re-mastered into 5.1 for the choral and orchestral moments.

    There are two audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The musical features clever and witty lyrics, and the dialogue quality is excellent. The audio sync is mostly okay, but there are the odd slips, such as at 69:08.

    The musical score is obviously provided by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and as mentioned earlier, it ranges from the rock flavoured title track, Superstar, to the oddly syncopated Everything's Alright, to the melancholy orchestral music accompanying the sadder moments. There is also a liberal peppering of 70s funk, soul, and choral music (and Herod's scene even provides some vaudeville). The music was arranged and conducted by the great Andre Previn, and shows off all of Lloyd Webber's peculiar talents, from odd time signatures to unusual instrumentation.

    The stereo audio for the feature is surround encoded, but its use is rare and subtle. At times, such as during the 'Hosanna' number, the rears provide some support to the score, but it is fairly minimal. As a stereo track, there is no LFE activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are excellent.

Menu

    A very simple menu, it is static and silent.

Audio Commentary

    Norman Jewison (Producer/Director) and Ted Neeley (Actor) provide a very screen specific commentary. Their commentary is recorded 32 years after making the film, and they both provide a very nostalgic and loving perspective of it, often identifying past friends on-screen. They also provide a few anecdotes, and a lot of trivia. For example, Ted points out one of the dancers who he met on the set, and ended up marrying.

Featurette-Interview With Master Lyricist Tim Rice (14:34)

    This is a fascinating interview with Sir Tim Rice, who was responsible for the book and lyrics for this musical. Rice discusses how he grew up fascinated with Judas, and wanted to write the Jesus story, but from Judas' perspective. Rather humorously, Rice also discusses how he met Andrew Lloyd Webber, and their work together.

Gallery-Photo (5:21)

    A series of stills set to music.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Jesus Christ Superstar has been released on DVD in Region 1 twice, the second time (August 2004) as a Special Edition, which is identical to our version. Strangely, the original DVD release had completely different extras:

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    Our version is the same as the current R1 Special Edition, but there is also an earlier R1 release with different extras.

Summary

    There is another version of this musical on DVD, recorded in 2000, but for me, this will always be the definitive Jesus Christ Superstar on film.

    The video quality is great, considering the age of the source material.

    The audio quality is good overall.

    The extras are very good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
A Few Extras - Michael Q (read my bio)
J.C.Superstar audio - Terry
Original R1 Release is Dolby 4.0 - Anthony
re J.C. Superstar audio - Terry