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Greatest Heroes of the Bible: Complete Collection
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. Although I wasn't alive for the initial run of the "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" series, I have a soft spot for hazy memories of re-run and syndicated TV of the late 80s and 90s. As often was the case in such programming, I would find myself exposed to many a mediocre TV star often billed as a much larger draw than they actually were. Now, when you take this sort of programming and mix it with an attempt at epic storytelling on a very small network TV budget, you wind up with "Greatest Heroes of the Bible". Spanning 15 episodes that defy time and space, making each 50-minute installment feel like a feature-length B-roll on a Cecil B. DeMille epic, "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" with a very straight face attempts to offer viewers a greatest hits series of dramatizations of all your favorite Bible stories, well...at least those not featuring the Bible's most well-known character, Jesus Christ, in a fashion that only could have originated in the late 1970s.
All kidding at the concept aside, "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" was an ambitious concept that just frankly fails to deliver the goods solely due to what is a painfully obvious low budget and a cast of characters that ranges from John Marley doing his best post-Heston Moses to Johnny Bravo himself, Barry Williams playing Jacob. The glaring dichotomy of that broad a difference in acting credibility makes the various installments a little hard to buy into from the get-go. When you add in a host of wonky, cheap looking effects, costumes one step above a TBN bible special, and sets that look like they're held together with velcro and string at times, you often get some unintentional comedy. When you add in scripts that seem to stumble over basic elements such as pacing and a three-act structure, you stray into the realm of insufferability.
The set shoots for the stars right out the gate with "The Ten Commandments" and perhaps that was a poor choice. Whether it was because this episode was the first aired or the producers of this set thought to go big, the glaring comparisons to the classic Heston film are unavoidable and try as he might to carry this clunky adaptation, John Marley grows more weary as the story progresses. While the big screen version was more encompassing of Moses' life, this installment focuses on the time in the desert and the actual point where the titular orders are bestowed upon Moses; gone is the hedonistic den of sin Moses returns to from the big screen and the sneering Edward G. Robinson, in its stead is a ho-hum motley crew that feebly amble about a tiny golden calf. The rest of the series suffers from many of the same issues, although with the less grand tales, the biggest problem suffers from poor casting of the "hot young names" of its time. Maybe it seemed like a good idea in 1978 to get Ron Palillo and Anson Williams to bring in the kids to learn about the Bible, but in 2016, these appearances get a combination "huh-ha" reaction.
At a runtime of nearly 13-hours and with all the apparent issues of quality, "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" is a hard sell even on a pure nostalgia level for those infatuated with schlocky 70s TV. I really don't know who the target audience is for this set, as a more spiritually devoted viewer isn't necessarily going to overlook poor performances and half-hearted production design, while those approaching it for a "just for laughs" viewing are going to be tired after just two or three installments. Ultimately, "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" is little more than a strange remnant of a bygone era and a testament to something being best left forgotten or fondly remembered through hazy, aged memories.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is rough looking throughout. There's a heavy amount of digital noise/grain and some irksome artifacting. Colors look oversaturated and detail is quite low; it has all the hallmarks of a 70s TV production that was not well preserved. There are shifts in visual quality from scene to scene in episodes that actually make the viewing distracting on a minor level as well, leaving me to wonder what the original source material was filmed on and how badly it has suffered over time.
The English Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is a little more tolerable than the visual transfer, but is equally lacking in any sort of wow factor. Dialogue is generally clear and overly the entire soundscape is flat for the most part. There are moments where some higher frequency sounds exhibit some distortion and the occasional bit of tinny sounding dialogue and effects. Overall it's passable and not much more. English SDH and Portuguese subtitles are included.
Too poorly made to be taken seriously and far too long to be ridiculed and mocked, "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" wears out its welcome before its first of three discs is over. Add to that a really poor audio and video presentation, and those who fondly remember this are best suited keeping it a distant memory; those looking to poke fun at it should seek out material far more palatable. Skip It.