DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Martin Scorsese
Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Verna Bloom, Barbara Hershey, Gary Basaraba, Irvin Kershner, Harry Dean Stanton , David Bowie
Writing Credits:
Nikos Kazantzakis (novel), Paul Schrader

The Last Temptation of Christ, by Martin Scorsese, is a towering achievement. Though it initially engendered enormous controversy, the film can now be viewed as the remarkable, profoundly personal work of faith that it is. This fifteen-year labor of love, an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s landmark novel that imagines an alternate fate for Jesus Christ, features outstanding performances by Willem Dafoe, Barbara Hershey, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, and David Bowie; bold cinematography by the great Michael Ballhaus; and a transcendent score by Peter Gabriel.

Box Office:
$7 million.
Opening Weekend
$401.211 thousand on 9 screens.
Domestic Gross
$8.373 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 163 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/13/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese, Writers Jay Cocks and Paul Schrader, and Actor Willem Dafoe
• Location Production Footage
• Interview with Composer Peter Gabriel
• Still Galleries
• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Last Temptation Of Christ: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 8, 2012)

Nearly a quarter-century later, I still remember all of the controversy generated by Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. It probably didn't hurt that I was on vacation in Los Angeles when the movie appeared – being so close to Hollywood likely doubled the amount of news I heard about it - but I don't think it made a huge difference; the ruckus that greeted the film was loud and intense.

And entirely predictable. More publicly-religious types thrive on controversy and being able to stir up people with tales of outrage and indignation, and what better way to do so than by attacking – sight unseen, of course - a movie that allegedly depicted Jesus - gasp! - acting like a human being? Granted, the critics alleged that the film would show Jesus doing the nasty, and it seemed incredibly unlikely that would slip by without a fight, but the knee-jerk reaction remained strong and stupid.

I truly despise emotionally-based, uninformed opinions, and that was what Temptaton encountered. Ironically, that same summer, I had a fight with a friend due to his own little reflexive negativity. If I recall correctly, there had been an incident that July during which the US shot down an Iranian plane. My friend and I were on a quick vacation at the time, and he'd been out on the patio smoking a cigarette when I had turned on the TV and started to hear about this news; this was the first he or I knew about it.

When he walked back in after receiving his nicotine fix, he literally heard nothing more than "US military shoots down Iranian plane" before he spat out, "That (expletive-deleted) Reagan! What the (expletive-deleted) has he done now?!"

Neither then nor now did I think much of President Reagan, but I found my friend's reaction to be ridiculously simple-minded. He knew virtually no facts about the event and yet he immediately pinned all the blame on the president based on incomplete information. At that point, it didn't matter whether Reagan himself was behind the turret of the US jet or if the president had died earlier that day; he knew almost nothing of what had occurred but had already formed a judgment about the event.

That's the kind of reaction that greeted Temptation and pretty much any other movie that treats religious icons in any manner other than with the greatest reverence. Granted, I'm sure Scorsese knew he'd encounter such controversy well before he made the movie - who knows, maybe he even hoped for it as free publicity - but I still find the outcry to have been hypocritical and absurd.

Largely overshadowed in all the ruckus was the movie itself; was it even worth the angst? That's hard for me to say. I'm not a particularly religious person, so it seemed unlikely the film would offend me in any way, and it most definitely doesn't.

Actually, the most "blasphemous" parts of the movie are its most compelling. That's not because the film becomes seedy or offers any gratuitous thrills - anyone looking for some cheap jollies will go away disappointed - but mainly because those scenes diverge the most from the standard legend of Christ.

At times, Temptation seems a bit disjointed, largely because much of it looks like “Jesus' greatest hits”. We see a lot of material that seems familiar to even someone like me who really doesn't know all that much about these stories. Scorsese has altered the tone and the focus - clearly this Jesus is not the flawless figure usually observed - but I couldn't help but feel a sense of déjŕ vu at times.

The final act, however - the titular "last temptation" itself - really works well, however. That's not to say that the preceding parts of the film aren't also good, but I don't think that Temptation really lives up to its promise until that part of the flick. I guess that makes sense since the climax virtually summarizes the entire point of the film

At the risk of sounding odd, I have to say that I feel too much of the movie focuses on Jesus himself. Again, this makes sense - it's not called The 75th Temptation of Bob - but I don't think the supporting characters receive enough development. At times it appears that Scorsese depends on the public's imagination about these personae to flesh them out for him, a factor made more difficult by the unusual approaches taken to the parts; these aren't quite your stock Bible characters. I don't want to get into those alterations too much since discussion of them may spoil parts of the movie for you, but I would have liked more exposition and screen time for the secondary characters.

Despite my criticisms, Temptation remains a strong and powerful film. Willem Dafoe offers a terrific portrayal of Jesus himself. The role clearly was intensely demanding; Dafoe had to go through radical emotional changes in the part and is onscreen virtually the entire movie. The supporting cast also seems good, though it does take some time to get used to actors like Harvey Keitel and Harry Dean Stanton in this sort of film. Surprisingly, I think David Bowie's turn as Pontius Pilate falls a little flat; I'm a rabid Bowie fan, and I believe he's one of the best rock star actors, but he seems uninspired here.

The Last Temptation of Christ isn't Martin Scorsese's best film, but it's probably his most courageous and heart-felt. The picture has some flaws but generally provides a compelling and thought-provoking look at the later life of Christ. It's not a movie to bring out for parties, but it warrants attention nonetheless.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Last Temptation of Christ appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently positive presentation.

Sharpness was usually strong. Some mild softness occurred on occasion, but those instances resulted from the source photography and were minor. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes or noise reduction. Source flaws were absent; we get a natural layer of grain but no intrusive defects.

Colors seemed nicely accurate and natural, with no signs of bleeding or noise. The film used a subdued palette that appeared warm and full. Black levels appeared deep and dark, with shadow detail only encountering sporadic problems during some of the night scenes. As with the mild softness, I thought these instances stemmed from the original photography and weren’t related to the transfer. Overall, this was a terrific image.

I felt pleased with the film’s surprisingly robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. The soundfield was very wide and engaging and provided a remarkably full experience. To be frank, I didn't expect much from the audio; this seemed like it'd be a quiet little film that probably would barely escape monaural status.

How wrong I was! Peter Gabriel's score pumped from all five channels for much of the movie, and effects also were well-localized and distinct. Even during the quiet scenes, the mix provided strong use of ambient audio, and the track clearly utilized a lot of split surround material, something I also didn't expect. This soundfield really added a lot of life to the film.

The quality seemed solid as well. At times, slight edginess affected the dialogue, but this issue was minor and speech always sounded natural and intelligible. Effects were clean and realistic, and the music appeared just spectacular; Gabriel's rhythmic score really cranked the story up a notch and it seemed very clear and vivid. At times, a thin layer of tape hiss appeared, but this occurs rarely and briefly. All in all, the audio contributed greatly to the success of the film.

How did this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original Criterion DVD? Audio appeared more dynamic and full, while visuals seemed crisper and more detailed; the Blu-ray also lost the occasional print flaws from the DVD. This was a substantial step up from the prior release.

The Blu-ray replicates many of the extras from the DVD. First comes an audio commentary from director Martin, Scorsese, writers Paul Schrader and Jay Cocks, and actor Willem Dafoe. All sit separately for this edited piece that covers the project’s origins and development, story/script/adaptation issues, cast, characters and performances, sers and locations, visual and production design, reactions to the film and otherareas.

All four men provide a lot of information that tells us a great deal about the project. We find insight into how the film got to the screen and what the filmmakers wanted to do, and most aspects of the production receive coverage. Most interestingly, we hear different discussions of the controversies that greeted the flick. It's a long track for a long movie, but even so, I wanted to hear more; it's a terrific commentary.

Now amusing comment: at one point, Schrader discusses the style of language used in the film. He mentions that they could’ve had the characters speak in Aramaic but that would’ve been an unrealistic aspiration. I guess Mel Gibson didn’t agree.

Next comes On Location in Morocco, 15 minutes, 44 seconds of footage Scorsese shot on the set. We see brief glimpses of various aspects of the production, culminating with the best part: shots of the re-creation of the crucifixion. It's one thing to hear Dafoe describe the unpleasantness of this part of the filming, but it's another to see it. My only complaint about this section is that it's too short; I'd love to see more of these tapes.

Another video segment presents a nearly twelve minute 1996 interview with composer Peter Gabriel. This 12-minute, three-second piece provides some mildly interesting details, but old Pete's a dry interview and the program seems a bit dull. This area also includes a brief text introduction to Pete and his participation, plus we find 20 still photos of Gabriel, other musicians and some of the different instruments used for the score.

Stills and Research gives us some stillframe materials. We open with 74 photos; these mix shots from the set and publicity elements. “Research” then shows some visual inspirations for aspects of the movie. Costume Designs presents 41 stills with sketches from designer Jean-Pierre Delifer. Photos of the final results accompany these. All of these are reasonably good but not particularly scintillating.

Finally, the package includes a eight-page booklet. This provides notes from film critic David Ehrenstein and some credits. While briefer than the usual Criterion booklet, Ehrenstein’s essay delivers quality information.

Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the DVD? Yes – the DVD came with literally hundreds of additional stillframe pieces. I have no idea why the Blu-ray omits these, as they provided lots of good information.

The Last Temptation Of Christ itself certainly has flaws, but it remains a courageous and compelling look at the most famous man in history. (No, I don't mean Mr. T.) The Blu-ray itself presents strong picture and audio as well as supplements highlighted by a fascinating audio commentary. While the absence of some of the prior DVD’s extras disappoints, the film has never looked or sounded better.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main