Palm Sunday Scene from Jesus Christ Superstar film

This is the Palm Sunday Scene from the 1973 film JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR,
directed by Norman Jewison. Shot entirely in Avdat and the Bell Caverns (primarily) in Israel, this is a modernized version of the Passion week by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (creators also of EVITA). In this scene, Annas, Caiphas, and the other priests discuss their fears of a Roman crackdown because of the growing popularity of Jesus, and what to do about it. As they draw their conclusion, Jesus’s followers lead him in his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem waving Palm Branches.


Good song, but cannot get over the keee-ray-zeee costumes - terribly distracting. :hypno:

Ah, it’s 1970 all over again! I got the 33 1/3 LP as soon as it came out. Somewhere, somewhere in some box, is my original album–with the libretto intact! It was so cool! I and a few friends really grooved to it. I, myself, had memorized all the words. I can still sing some songs. When I was in high school, we convinced one of the priests who taught us to have a school mass with a JCS theme: what fun! Then the movie came out. We ran to the theatre and saw it twice. Did you know that the movie had a couple of songs that were not in the original album? “Then We are Decided” and “Could We Start Again, Please?” were not in the original. I don’t know how many times that I’ve seen the movie but IMHO the singers in the movie–in particular, Carl Anderson and Ted Neeley–are better than the album. Neeley hits some notes in “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” that are astounding! I just love Judas’ “Damned For All Time/Blood Money”. And what you say about all the dancing flower children? Check out “Simon Zealotes”. Can You Dig It?


Those hats…


Glen Campbell used to sing a song “I Knew Jesus Before He Was A Superstar”

Yes, those hats (on the jewish high priests) — and not just in the Film version, either.
I’ve seen it on stage a few times, and in EVERY production, the Miters of the Jewish priests look like…THOSE hats. Sorry, Hollywood and Broadway, but Israel’s priest’s
Miters did NOT look like JIFFY-POP !!!

The kee-ray-zee costumes? That was deliberate. Jewison, director, was juxtaposing ancient and modern (for 1973) imagery. Jesus wears the simple, standard robe with the waist cincture. Judas wears a jumpsuit, Mary Magdalene looks fairly traditional,
the Roman soldiers carry machine guns AND spears and wear steel helmets, and their army drives Sherman Tanks in the Israeli deserts.

both terrific songs, were not on the 1970 brown concept album (which I too memorized EVERY word of). I like Ted Neeley as Jesus, and in many scenes, he LOOKS like the picture of Jesus (sacred heart) that I have hanging on my wall, the look is uncanny.
His voice? Not that impressed by it. He DID hit the high notes well in Gethsemane, I’ll admit, but in HOSANNA, his voice came across a bit thin and reedy, I felt, compared the rich and full voice of IAN GILLAN (of Deep Purple) from the 1970 brown concept album.
But those two songs added a great deal of needed depth and context to the story, especially THEN WE ARE DECIDED, which put the high priests’s terror of the Roman Masters (who had in fact appointed them to their offices) into high relief and gave some context to a lot of their opposition to Jesus.

SIMON ZEALOTES is surprising, with riotous choreography, which surprises and offends some viewers. These hippie dancers look like, well, like such RADICALS, especially Simon the Zealot himself. SURPRISE !! HELLO !!! The Zealots WERE Radicals, much more radical, in first century Israel, than the hippies were in the 1960s and 1970s. These Zealots, and Simon was one, killed people right and left to further their “cause” of liberation from Rome, brutally and sneakily, with DAGGERS.
They were FAR worse than the hippies, they were vicious killers. In the film, led by Simon, they try to get Jesus to champion their movement, telling him to "add just a touch of HATE at ROME, and “you’ll get the power and the glory forever and ever and ever !!” ---- and Jesus rebukes them firmly for it, wanting nothing to do with such a thing (POOR JERUSALEM). Though staged wildly, this part is straight out of the Gospels: The crowds tried to grab Jesus and forcibly make him King, scripture says, just as the Zealots do in this scene, and scripture says that Jesus would have none of it, and hid himself from them, departing from their midst.

I love THE TRIAL BEFORE PILATE in this film (Barry Dennen is wonderful as the effete Pontius Pilate who, though wimpy on the surface, clearly but subtly reveals a nasty, beneath the surface VERY sadistic personality.

SUPERSTAR is shot interestingly. As the song starts, Christ transforms from clad in his tattered plain robe with blood-streaked back, into an almost transfigured and glorious figure in a glowing white gown, quite majestic looking. I love that image of him.
The ghost of Judas descends, like the devil falling from heaven, in the presence of glowing light. When he emerges with the showgirls, they emerge from tunnels that are glowing in a fiery hot red/orange color. Some have asked, so what’s the director trying to
say?? That Hell is somehow like Vegas ??? Nah. But the fiery hell image of those tunnels is, I believe, deliberate on director Norman Jewison’s part. Judas is, after all, an antichrist figure, and the song, Superstar, is sung by Jesus’s skeptics with intermittent scenes of Jesus, followed by his grieving disciples, carrying the cross up the hill. While the showgirls/skeptics are asking challenging questions, Judas, by contrast, has a look of almost raging hatred in his eyes as he questions his former friend with sometimes very sarcastic questions. (( Carl Anderson is terrific as this utterly-unloveable character. He died of Leukemia just a few years ago. He was incredibly talented as a singer and as an actor )).

All in all, the film version was not bad for an attempt to do something VERY difficult, namely translate THAT particular musical from stage, where it works well if done right,
to the Big Screen. Norman Jewison, in his direction, also showed a surprisingly large degree of respect for the person of Christ himself, especially as he is a jewish man who does not believe in Jesus’s messianic claim.

Jesus Christ Superstar is far from perfect theologically or scripturally,
but it is one heck of an innovative and creative musical version of the passion week,
and the music is very good.

Simon Zealotes is one of my favorite songs & numbers from the film. My wife and kids aren’t nuts about too many religious movies but this is one we watch fairly regularly, and we listen to the soundtrack in the car quite often.

Couple more things–

It was kinda strange, but I really liked the anachronistic air about the movie: the tanks, the helmets, the bus, etc. There was one thing that I just heard about the end of the movie. You know the shepherd walking across the screen in the sunset? I thought Jewison had meant to include him in the shot. He didn’t! It was serendipitous! When he saw the shot, he kept it in.


BTW, I didn’t know that Carl A. had died: Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.


Hi, NeedsMercy.
I too always wondered whether, as the cross is silhoutted against the sunset,
it was intentional of Jewison to have had a shepherd, leading a flock of sheep, walking
across the ground at the foot of the cross. I assumed he had deliberately written it into the story and shot it deliberately. It IS a surprise to learn that it happened accidentally and he decided to leave it in, because that really seems almost providential.

Yes, Carl Anderson died of Leukemia, and it really hurt my heart to learn that, too.
I saw him play the same role on stage, and he was absolutely electrifying as a live performer. Very sad that he passed so comparatively young. Ted Neeley still posts little tributes to Carl on his personal webpage from time to time. They were friends and it’s really painful to him that Carl died like that.

The BUS used in the opening and closing scenes in the movie?
It was TED NEELEY’s own tour-bus, and he loaned it to Norman Jewison for use in
the film.
I love the way the movie starts: the deserts of Israel, a tour bus drives up, the cast, all the actors and actresses, disembark, put on their costumes and makeup, and then do a mystical ritual dance, and Christ emerges from their midst, arms outstretched to heaven. Lovely opening.
But did you notice the ending, that when all the Actors are back dressed in their regular clothes, and they get back onto the bus one by one,
that Ted Neeley is NOT with them? Interesting, I thought.

That sort of use of coincidences in film is probaably not uncommon where something is being filmed outdoors. Its very expensive for starters, so one cannot retake quite as endlessly as one could if filming indoors.

I recall Charlton Heston saying there was one point in the chariot scene in Ben Hur where he almost falls out of the chariot and pulls himself back in that was unscripted but kept in because it looked suitably dramatic in the context

In 'It’s a Wonderful Life" the character “Uncle Billy” was staggering off set after a party and as soon as he left the view of the camera something in the studio fell and made a loud noise. It just happened by coincidence but the director left the scene in the movie because it “fit.”

I’ve heard that “Uncle Billy” was afraid he’d be fired over that ‘accident’. Jimmy Stewart’s reaction to the noise and the “I’m ooookay!” was great, considering that it wasn’t planned.

Very somber ending. BTW, “Retroplex” has been running JCS off and on for the last few weeks. Caught part of it early this morning…

“What’s that in the bread? It’s gone to my head…”

Mine, too.


Okay, since we’re talking about it, here it is:
The OVERTURE from the 1973 film version, complete with the actors arriving on
the tour bus (owned actually by Ted Neeley and loaned to the director for the film).
I really love the way this whole thing is shot, and when they untie the huge cross
and hold it high in the air, to that music, you know this story “means business.”
And I love the way Christ appears, finally, extending his arms to heaven at the crescendo.
Very nice.
Enjoy !!

You are so right I laughed when reading your post!

This is GETHSEMANE (The Agony in the Garden) from the 1973 Film.

Now. There are serious problems with the lyrics to this song.
Yes, Jesus was terrified at what was about to befall him, he could foresee and feel
every coming lash, every coming punch to the face, every coming wound,
and as my priest puts it, his body “rebelled” against that. It was terror, agony, pain, even fear.
But Tim Rice, the lyricist, took it too far, He made Jesus TOO human. He had him say what many of us IMperfect people would possibly say, most egregiously,
“Show me there’s a reason for your wanting me to die!
…You’re far too keen on where and how, but not so hot on why !”
That’s over the top. Jesus would never have said that to the Father.
One, he was God and Perfect,
Two, he knew all along why he had to die. It was planned from all eternity.
So there IS error in this song.
Nonetheless, we Catholics do know better, and for all it’s faults,
this song is very powerful and heartwrenching. (If it were up to me, I’d alter some
of the lyrics to this song, but it isn’t).

Director Norman Jewison ***did an amazing and creative job ***shooting and staging this song. He could have simply had Jesus sing it underneath a tree. No. This song is about Jesus’s ascent above his fears, conquering them, and deciding despite terror to go ahead with his mission. So he has Jesus walk from the trees area to a rocky area, and the metaphors visually really get going. Christ is climbing steep hills and sharp jagged rocks, higher and higher, until he finally reaches the summit and declares that he will go through with it after all. Very nicely done. Flawed lyrically, but still powerful.

I’m not so worried about Jesus’ supposedly not knowing all the details - He did ask that the cup be avoided if possible, so perhaps He wasn’t privy to every detail of the Father’s plans all the time?

What rubs me the wrong way more is ‘If I die what will be my reward’ … as if He is going through His passion hoping to get something for Himself out of it :nope:

Hi Lily !!

Actually, I think it’s Paul who writes in one of his letters that
“for the joy that was set before him, he endured the Cross…”
I just don’t remember chapter and verse.

If I die, what will be my reward, would be a perfectly normal question
for a righteous man to ask, considering the kind of horrific death he
knew awaited him. It is perfectly good to expect a reward from God for
submitting to being beaten and tortured to death. It’s not “selfish”. But his
reward, he already knew, would be universal rule, which he already had as God,
but now as man as well, as the Godman, over all creation and the redemption of
ALL of it, in him, to his Father. That’s a MUCH bigger Reward than Resurrection Itself,
alone, and Jesus knew that this very reward awaited him.

What I don’t like about the lyrics are they present an ignorant Jesus,
when in reality, in scripture, he kept warning the apostles over and over and
over again that this was going to happen,
at the Last Supper, BEFORE the Garden,
he TOLD them that after he went away (died, rose, went back to heaven)
he would send The Comforter to them, the Holy Spirit, who,
if He did NOT go away, would NOT come to them (cf Gospel of John).

So lyricist Tim Rice made Jesus waaaaaaaaay TOO human in this song.
Not know all the minute details? He knew. And he knew why.
I wouldn’t have a problem with somebody like the great JOB singing
these words to this song, in HIS terrible suffering, but JOB was finite and limited
and imperfect. Jesus was almighty, omniscient, and perfect in every way.

Blessings to you, LilyM !!

I disagree. It’s art, not a theological treatise, and as such many interpretations of the song are possible.

I fully admit that it’s possible to interpret many lines in a heterodox manner, but I also firmly maintain that no line in the song “Gethsemane” cannot be interpreted in an orthodox manner as well.

That’s not possible. Scripture explicitly tells us that our Lord is like us in all things but sin. He is fully human, so it’s really not possible to portray Jesus as “too human.”

So unless something he says in that song has to be a sinful thing to say, He can be portrayed as human as one wants.

I don’t find this to be a substantive reason to object to that lyric. “Over the top”? In what way? And so what? Sweating blood is over-the-top. Crucifixion is over-the-top. Betrayal and abandonment are over-the-top. Thus the line seems fitting to me.

I agree!

Great analysis!

I don’t find this to be a substantive reason to object to that lyric. “Over the top”? In what way? And so what? Sweating blood is over-the-top. Crucifixion is over-the-top. Betrayal and abandonment are over-the-top. Thus the line seems fitting to me.

The reason to object is that
(1) Christ KNEW, from all eternity, that he was to come to earth and Die and
he knew WHY, and told the apostles so many times
(2) Being Divine and Holy, he would NEVER “smart-off” to the Father like that.


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