This intriguing book explores why spectacular films involving Biblical figures or set in Biblical times have been a staple of filmmaking since talkies began. Forshey looks at these films, and suggests that the underlying purpose was to mediate between a monistic scientific world view and a dualistic religious world view, and between secular and religious ethics. Forshey discusses how filmic, political, religious, and cultural history influenced filmmakers of these spectaculars.
The first chapter differentiates between religious spectaculars and biblical spectaculars. Following are chapters on early religious films and others on how the post-war and cold war led to a struggle to define the righteous nation. The chapters on biblical spectaculars examine films in which sex and social responsibility was a paramount concern (Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba). The 1960s were dominated by films about Jesus, searching for an ethical system for a world undergoing rapid social change. One entire chapter is devoted to Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, the epitome of the form, followed by chapters on John Huston's The Bible as a culmination of the form, and a final one on how television rethought spectaculars and how Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ drew the battle lines between humanistic Christians and evangelical Christians. American Religious and Biblical Spectaculars will appeal to scholars of film, religion, and popular culture.