The 1973 movie musical adaptation of the hit off-Broadway play Godspell makes it Blu-ray debut courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s MOD program.
The Production: 2/5
Godspell started as a drama student project at Carnegie Mellon University as an experimental piece of theatre in 1970, then reworked and scored as a musical with music by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, premiering off-Broadway in 1971. Loosely based on a series of parables from the Book of Matthew from The Bible, a movie version was made by Columbia Pictures that was released in 1973. I remember my mother wanting to take me to see this during its original theatrical run when I was around eight years old, and I’m actually kind of glad she never did, as this would have likely freaked me out. Using then-current day New York as its backdrop, Jesus (Victor Garber, in his screen debut) sprouts a fuzzy afro dressed in a hand-made Superman sweatshirt and clown suspenders and pants, with his followers made up as a cross between clown and hippies. Director David Greene (better known for directing episodes of The Defenders, Coronet Blue, Ellery Queen, and Rich Man, Poor Man) directs this filmed version as if it were a hand-made production. There is no real sense of style to the cinematography, the dance numbers and even the movie as a whole comes off flat. Godspell the movie is obviously a product if its time, and the only really memorable (or well-known) song from the production is Day by Day, and even that number has no real flair in this production.
3D Rating: NA
Godspell is not a pretty movie to look at, but I’m fairly certain Sony has provided a transfer, as they typically do, that best represents how the movie would appear if projected in 35mm on a theater screen. Overall, this is a pretty good transfer, with its 35mm source to blame for many of its deficiencies. This is a rather soft image that for most of its running time provides very good details such as individual hairs, brush strokes in the applied facial make-up, and fabric textures, with some occasional wide shots appearing out of focus. Colors appear natural but very slightly muted, not as vibrant as one would expect considering the costume design. Contrast is very good, with deep blacks and decent shadow detail. Film grain is present and natural, never overly distracting.
Per IMDB, Godspell was released theatrically with a 4-channel magnetic soundtrack. I have to assume that track has gone missing, since in my research every home video release of this film has been in 2-channel mono. Sony has provided a decent DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that has decent fidelity with clear dialogue and lyrics throughout, but is, much like the film, otherwise flat.
Special Features: 4/5
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Lee Gambin: Gambin goes into a lot of detail in the history and making of the movie and musical.
Cast & Crew Audio Interviews: Lee Gambin interviews, by telephone, Composer Stephen Schwartz (45:52), Actress Robin Lamont (32:52), Actress Katie Hanley (38:28), Actor Jerry Sroka (32:34) and Producer Edgar Lansbury (18:10).
Historian Carol De Giere Audio Contribution (7:46): The author of The Godspell Experience discusses briefly the songs from the movie.
Original Behind the Scenes Featurette (1080p; 5:06)
Theatrical Teaser (1080p; 0:57)
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 4:22)
Godspell is a very strange movie to experience. Sony has possibly done the best they could to present this film as it would likely appear in a movie theater, but many may find it a rather disappointing presentation due to the source material.
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