The Last Temptation of Christ [WS] [Special Edition] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1988]

Criterion Collection's release of Martin Scorsese's controversial film is superb. The studio has compiled a package that will appeal to both the cinephile and the mildly curious. Of the special features, the meatiest is the commentary given by Scorsese, lead actor Willem Dafoe, and screenwriters Paul Schrader and Jay Cocks. The multiple sources provide a depth to the background information that would be difficult to attain if only one commentator had been used. There is a collection of research materials, production stills, and costume designs collected by the director himself, as well as location footage shot by him. There is an interview with the film's composer Peter Gabriel, with supporting stills of the musicians and the unusual instruments used for the soaring soundtrack. The anamorphic widescreen image is fantastic here, and the colors are earthy yet varied in their palette. The enhanced transfer is straight from the original print and contains very few scratches. Peter Gabriel's powerful opening sequence can be fully appreciated with the Dolby Digital 5:1 track, and the dialogue, though sometimes hard to adjust to after the immense strength of the music, is distinct and very clean. Criterion should be commended for providing a booklet that contains a rebuttal essay addressing the maelstrom of controversy that surrounded this film. This DVD is beyond controversy and can be enjoyed as a complete entertainment package.
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Special Features

  • New widescreen digital transfer, approved by the filmmakers and enhanced for widescreen televisions
  • New Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack by original supervising sound editor Skip Lievsay
  • Audio commentary by Martin Scorsese, Willem Dafoe, Paul Schrader, and Jay Cocks
  • Extensive collection of research materials, production stills, and costume designs
  • Location production footage, shot by Scorsese
  • Video interview with composer Peter Gabriel, plus a stills gallery of the instruments used in the film
  • English subtitles
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition


The Last Temptation of Christ
Willem Dafoe plays Jesus Christ in this extraordinarily controversial adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis's novel. The film depicts a sometimes reluctant, self-doubting Jesus, gradually coming to accept His divinity and the inexorability of His ultimate fate. The much-maligned sex scene with Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) occurs as an hallucination experienced by Jesus as he suffers on the cross. This particular sequence was what infuriated the film's most rabid critics, but in fact it is just one of many iconoclastic musings to be found in the film and its source novel. Equally volatile are the intimations that, as a carpenter, Jesus indifferently shaped the crucifixes for other condemned prisoners long before his own fate was sealed, and that Judas (Harvey Keitel) was literally manipulated into betrayal by a Christ whose preoccuption with his own destiny compelled him to "use" others. None of these departures from the normal interpretation of the scriptures are offered as any more than theory; as such, it was accepted as food for thought by the more open-minded clerics and Biblical scholars who recommended the film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Willem Dafoe
    Willem Dafoe - Jesus Christ
  • Harvey Keitel
    Harvey Keitel - Judas Iscariot
  • Barbara Hershey
    Barbara Hershey - Mary Magdalene
  • Harry Dean Stanton
    Harry Dean Stanton - Paul, Saul

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