On Friday I read an article about a 1970 musical I’d completely forgotten about: Jesus Christ Superstar, by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Easter Sunday evening seemed like a good time to rent the movie and watch it, so I did.
I loved JCSS. I own the original cast album from the musical: see above for evidence. I played it over and over, so I was very familiar with the music, and I did see the movie once, when it first came out in 1973. But that was a long time ago, and I’d forgotten a lot. What did I forget?
- How much I liked the music. I still do, apparently. I was going to watch it over two nights, but once I got started I couldn’t stop watching.
- HIPPIES. The entire cast dresses like hippies, apart from the villains who have obviously homemade villainous costumes. I had certainly forgotten that the Roman centurion uniform involved purple, almost mauve, tank tops. But the movie is framed as a performance by a travelling theatre group, so it makes sense. Sort of.(Also, I realized partway through that part of the reason I’d forgotten about the hippies was simply because this was what everyone looked like when I saw the movie, more or less. I was never a hippie, being a few years too young and far too timid, but there was a fair amount of spillover into the early 70s. By which I am dating myself. Sigh.)
- Anachronisms. Tanks chasing Judas through the desert.
- How subversive it was. In many ways the movie is completely over the top, but there was also a lot of stuff in there to upset people (and it did). This is NOT a canon retelling of the gospels. Sometimes the subversion was right in the maintext, sometimes in subtleties like the machine guns for sale in the market in the temple (if a machine gun in ancient Israel can be considered subtle).
- Diversity. This was a cast of all colours, unusual then, and, unfortunately, now.
- That sexy guys were lean, if not actually skinny or scrawny, in those days. Not a chiselled pec to be seen, and nary a sixpack. Fashions in what’s attractive certainly do change. (The women, of course, often wore scanty outfits. Some things never change.)
- And related to that—the actors were not perfect. I mean, really not perfect. They mostly looked like regular people; some were a bit prettier than others. But (this is what originally caught my attention) they did not have perfect teeth. They did not have perfect anything; they had not been remade.
I wish that was still true of actors. I prefer the natural look to shiny.
It’s a fun movie. Go watch it.
UPDATE: if you do watch, beware the earworms. Argh.