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.
Yup, COULD WE START AGAIN PLEASE, and THEN WE ARE DECIDED,
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.