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Sunday, November 14, 2010

MARTIN LUTHER (1953)

The Lutheran Council made a clever choice when they hired Louis de Rochemont to produce this straight-forward bio-pic of the great religious reformer. De Rochemont had gone from producing ‘The March of Time’ newsreels to docu-dramas @ 20th/Fox, like THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET/’45 and 13 RUE MADELEINE/’46. He, in turn, cleverly hired the blacklisted Irving Pichel (a remarkably competent jack-of-all-trades film man) to direct. Niall MacGinnis makes a forceful, if nuance-free Luther, and the cast & production are all the more effective for their workman-like lack of polish. In some respects, the film prefigures (and betters) the much-acclaimed, but frankly unwatchable, series of ‘teaching films’ that Roberto Rossellini started making in the mid- 60s. (To give Roberto his due, his 1950 film on Francis of Assisi may have influenced this production.) The film glosses over some of Luther’s less admirable qualities, but the basic tenets come across not just clearly, but with a real feel for the passion behind the ideas. Catholics may feel . . . otherwise. There are some dreadful Public Domain editions out there, but the 50th Anniversary DVD from Vision Video has a decent image that gives some indication of the Oscar nom’d cinematography.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Don’t forget to follow this up with a little do-it-yourself DAVY AND GOLIATH stop-motion animation festival!

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