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Monday, April 17, 2006

Hill Number One 

I watched a one-hour James Dean war film over the weekend - Hill Number One. Broadcast on EWTN (the Catholic network where Robert J. Levis used to provide bad advice), it starts as a war story about some GIs taking some hill or another, when the local Padre comes by in his jeep and tells the story of the taking of Hill Number One.

James Dean plays the Apostle John in the middle part of the telecast, depicting the events that took place between Friday and Easter Sunday. Roddy McDowell also appears in the program.

In some ways, the program just wasn't Protestant:
  • After the crucifixion but before evening, Holy Mary is spending a lot of time gathering up physical things, such as the nails from the cross.

  • As the apostles hid, Peter invited Mary to take a position of leadership with the group.

  • At the end of the program, when they left the first century and went back to the war battle, Padre took out his rosary.

In addition, they filled in the gaps of the story in interesting ways:
  • According to the story, Thomas doubted everything. When several of the apostles talked about the death of Judas, Thomas said that he wouldn't believe it unless he saw it.

  • Much of the story revolved around Pilate's frantic search for his wife, who disappeared just after the crucifixion. It turns out that Claudia was hiding out with Stephen, who was supporting her in her plans to leave her husband.

  • The squeamish certainly enjoyed the episode in the story in which one of the Romans, who was standing by when water and blood gushed out of Christ's body, was miraculously cured of an eye ailment.

Here's amazon.com's review:

Before James Dean conquered Hollywood, he toiled in New York television. Hill Number One was an hour-long Easter special sponsored by the Family Rosary Crusade--the story of Jesus after the crucifixion, when he was buried in the tomb and then was risen. It's talky, stiffly staged, and very earnest. Dean has a small role, about four lines of dialogue, and he's wildly miscast as the serene and pious John the Baptist.

Which reminded me of another inaccuracy in the production - at one point they referred to John as a wimpy guy. However, the casting of James Dean as John may have been accurate. Remember, John was one of the Sons of Thunder.

Luke 9:52-56 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

52And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[a]?" 55But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56and[b] they went to another village.


Luke 9:54 Some manuscripts them, even as Elijah did
Luke 9:56 Some manuscripts them. And he said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." 56 And

There must be another version of Hill Number One, however. The version that I saw was in black and white, and had beginning and ending scenes from a war battle. But look at this:

Filmed in color, the 60-minute Hill Number One was an episode of the TV religious anthology Family Theatre. Father Patrick Peyton hosts this star-studded Easter special, wherein the story of the Resurrection is told in flashback form at a contemporary family gathering. As always, Fr. Peyton has assembled an impressive cast, including Roddy McDowell, Michael Ansara, Leif Erickson and Ruth Hussey. What makes this special truly special is the early appearance by James Dean, who delivers an earnest, non-mumbling performance as the apostle John.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Weird. Did Roddy McDowell sing any songs?
To tell you the truth, after viewing the show I wasn't even sure what part McDowell played (I'm not a big movie person). The closest this thing got to a song was a spoken recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
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