A movie poster proclaims "Not Suitable for Children" and "Twin Cities of Sin"; lurid couples adorn the background, caught in compromising positions, and the lower half of the poster boasts two beautiful people caught in passionate lip-lock.
A sleazy summer blockbuster? The latest "edgy" art house fare? No: it's from a 1963 movie, one of the later members of the "sword and sandal" genre of films based on the Bible, which also includes Ben-Hur, King of Kings, and The Robe.
Granted, this film is called Sodom and Gomorrah.
The poster, and other surprises, is currently at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City. The museum's "Reel Religion" exhibit, on view until May 17, is a survey of Hollywood films based on the Bible.
Not only does the exhibit show what a rich source of material the Bible has been to filmmakers, but it's is also a revealing look into the tactics that studios have used in the past hundred years to market films, and the ways that stories drawn from biblical narratives have fit into Hollywood.
"Reel Religion" is mostly made up of movie posters, drawn heavily from the collection of Father Michael Morris, a Dominican priest, prolific author, and professor at Berkeley. When he began collecting the posters to display, members of his department were initially delighted.
"'Finally, something uplifting on the walls!' they said. Little did they know!" recounts Morris, who wrote an essay and recently gave a talk to accompany the MOBIA exhibit, in which he points out some predominant themes in the posters: art, mysticism, magnificence, violence, and sexuality.
And indeed, to walk through the exhibit is to experience the entire range of Hollywood's aesthetic—from tastefully artistic posters to politically-charged ...1