Godspell (1973)

godspell poster 1973 movie musical
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking NYC movie

Not story driven, music is so-so

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Godspell

Studio:  Columbia

Genre(s):  Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  March 21, 1973

MPAA Rating:  G

godspell cast world trade center

The world is your oyster!

John the Baptist (David Haskell) appears to a group of lost and lonely people and leads them to a potential savior in Jesus Christ (Victor Garber).  As Christ teaches his disciples his message, he instills in them a view of self-worth and the importance of spreading his message through actions.  Even Christ cannot stop what is coming and the teacher becomes the martyr as the story of the gospel plays out.

Directed by David Greene, Godspell is a musical based on the 1971 musical.  The musical mostly takes its message from the Gospel of St. Matthew.  The film was relatively well received by critics.

Godspell generally fits into the “hippie” musical category with musicals like Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar.  Unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell goes in another direction and generally doesn’t craft a story around the Gospel of St. Matthews but focuses on the teachings of Jesus.  This makes Godspell both unique and dull.

godspell time square monitor victor garber david haskell

Taking New York by storm!

Jesus Christ Superstar pushed the relationship and the acts surrounded the Crucifixion, but Godspell focuses almost entirely on the teachings.  There was some criticism of the play and movie for not showing the resurrection of Christ, but I think it does keep it focused on the message.  Honestly, it almost seems like the Crucifixion shouldn’t have even occurred in the movie and the movie should have maybe ended with the Last Supper in that sense.

The hippie aspect of the story was off-putting to some religious groups since most of the cast almost dresses in clown garb.  This however makes sense in a real life terms because I’m sure a group of “disciples” in the desert were kind of the equivalent of hippies in Roman times.  Victor Garbor does a good job as the childlike Christ and David Haskell plays a duel role as both John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot.  The cast is largely composed of Broadway actors but people might recognize Lynne Thigpen who also made the jump to television in shows like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.  Including Lynne Thigpen, a surprising amount of the cast passed at young ages.

godspell monster jesus victor garber

Jesus vs the Trash Monster!

The locations of Godspell really sell the movie.  The film is shot all over New York City.  It stretches from Central Park to the then still under construction World Trade Center.  It looks amazing and the streets are empty after the opening and until the ending.  The last shot where the characters go around the corner and the camera turns the corner to a full street does a good job pushing the message that the teachers might be gone but the message is still important.

I don’t love Godspell in that it moves very slowly and the music isn’t very inspiring.  I do like how it looks, and I do admire the creator for not trying really “put a spin” on the teachings but just lay them out there.  Godspell is one of those musical that never dies because it is positive and it is affordable to put on, and the movie is a solid adaption that exposes both the pros and cons of the musical.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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