I Beheld His Glory,
directed by John T. Coyle
(Digiview, 1953)

This "Family Theater" presentation from 1953 is a most commendable account of Jesus' last days, crucifixion and resurrection. The most noteworthy thing about it is the fact that it presents the Passion from the point of view of a Roman centurion who witnessed several key events in the story. Not only does this centurion accept Jesus as his savior, we find him telling the story of Jesus' death and resurrection to some of Christ's Jewish followers in a town outside of Jerusalem.

Despite the inclusion of flashbacks within flashbacks (a technique I usually decry quite vocally), this modest production quite effectively brings the Gospel to life in the space of just 55 minutes.

Roman centurion Cornelius (George Macready) arrives in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus' triumphal entry into the city. After hearing how Jesus drove all of the merchants and moneychangers from the temple and watching Jesus easily avoid the trap set for him by Pharisees asking about the payment of taxes to Caesar, Cornelius takes a personal interest in the Nazarene. He's present when Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate and he's also on hand when Jesus is crucified and dies -- he even attempts to warn Jesus to leave Jerusalem before it's too late. Through the disciple Thomas, he learns the details of the Last Supper and other events he doesn't personally witness for himself -- and that includes the victory of Jesus over death.

While the presentation does not address every detail of its subject matter (which would have been impossible to do over the course of just 55 minutes), it stays true to the Biblical story. The acting is quite adequate all the way around, although I have to say that Robert Wilson makes for the most emaciated Jesus I've ever seen. I really liked the framing of the Gospel story from the viewpoint of a Roman centurion, as it lends a certain power to the all-important message of Jesus' sacrifice. Hearing a character outside of Jesus' contemporary followers declare "I beheld His Glory" makes this film particularly memorable to me.

review by
Daniel Jolley

14 May 2011

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