John Hurt's 10 Most Underrated Performances

6. Jesus Christ - History Of The World, Part I (1981)

Jesus Henry There have been many memorable portrayals of Jesus Christ in cinema. Think Robert Powell in the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ, Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ, or Ralph Fiennes in The Miracle Maker. Unlike these names, Hurt's performance is essentially comedic, serving as the foil to Mel Brooks, but he still does a very good job in turning what could be a po-faced cameo into an integral part of the comedy. History of the World, Part I is an episodic film directed by and starring Brooks in five different roles. It charts the history of the world from the Stone Age to the French Revolution, stopping off in the Old Testament, the Roman Empire and the Spanish Inquisition along the way. While it's nothing like as funny, insightful or original as Monty Python's Life of Brian, it's still a really fun film which finds Brooks firing on all cylinders. Because the film has so much history to cover, Hurt's character is only on screen for two minutes. But in that two minutes he has a memorably witty exchange with Brooks, similar to the "Who's On First?" routine of Abbott and Costello. Crucially, Hurt resists the urge to play our Lord as overly serious; there is both an innocence to him and a sense that he is in on the joke. It's a very nice little moment and one of the highlights of a funny if sprawling film.
Contributor
Contributor

Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast (http://www.lionheartradio.com/ and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter (http://www.phonic.fm/). Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.

Discussion