Sound on disc
"In the Beginning, although far from being a perfect picture, is nevertheless one of the few truly great films thus far to come from a motion picture camera — either theatrical or amateur. Here, the magnificent beauty and awesome strangeness of the natural world have been seen in their fundamental and ultimate meanings. As an interpretation of the epic story of creation, In the Beginning follows directly in the noble tradition of Homer, Dante and Milton. One is left stilled and humble before the simple purity of imagination which conceived it. To this superb document of nature, F. C. Ells, ACL, the producer, has brought a technical skill and sensitive craftsmanship more than equal to the demands of his subject. Using as his titles direct quotations from the first chapter of Genesis, Mr. Ells has added a subtle undertone to the beautiful King James English by the use of primitive, geometrical symbols (indicative of fire, rain, infinity, etc.) for his title backgrounds. Somber and stunning scenes of the heaving waters, the new born earth and bursting streams in the first reel are followed, in the second, by flawlessly executed telephoto and macroscopic studies of the earth's myriad creatures. Integrating the entire production is a musical accompaniment of stately church music, recorded on disc by the Sistine Choir. Mr. Ells, who has looked upon the earth and found it good, has produced a sincere and beautiful film, great even as it falls short of perfection." Movie Makers, Dec. 1935, 550.
In the Beginning is a part of the Harmon Foundation Collection held by the National Archives. A copy is also available in the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers Collection held by East Anglian Film Archive.
"In the Beginning, although an interpretation of the Biblical story of creation, was not filmed by a clergyman on foreign service in Japan. F. C. Ells, ACL, its producer, is an executive in Yokohama of the Standard Vacuum Corporation." Movie Makers, Dec. 1935, 536.
Ells also made a colour version of this film with the same title in 1942.
Discussed in "An American Films in Japan" (Movie Makers, Nov. 1936, 486).
Discussed by Charles Tepperman under "Amateur Religious Filmmaking" in Amateur Cinema: The Rise of North American Moviemaking, 1923-1960, University of California Press, 2014.
The film was available in the ACL's Club Film Library. It was also available to rent from the Religious Motion Picture Foundation in New York.
Harmon Foundation Collection, National Archives;
Institute of Amateur Cinematographers Collection, East Anglian Film Archive