"In the best tradition of filming technique, a movie should be an independent story telling medium. It should not require explanation or demonstration to make its meaning clear. Yet, there is no reason why this cardinal principle should not be violated, if the variation from accepted technique serves an artistic purpose. The Book of Ruth, by G. Manley DeBevoise, involves a new departure from tradition, for the film itself is an illustration in motion of the Biblical story, rather than a complete dramatization of the story. The tale is told by a narrator in synchronism with the appearance of the scenes on the screen, and, without the narration, the movie would be incomprehensible. Yet the two form a perfect unit which resents a fuller interpretation of the story of Ruth than would be possible by any other means. Costuming and selection of properties for this film are excellent and accurate. A church group worked for months in research to avoid anachronisms. The result is a splendid religious teaching film. The narration is given in person, and music is carefully scored by double turntable." Movie Makers, Dec. 1939, 636.
"Working still in the same lyric mood which inspired In The Beginning and Consider The Lilies (place winners of earlier years), Fred C. Ells has turned this year to the Twenty Third Psalm for the theme of Still Waters. In it, to use his own words, he has tried "to bring to mind some of the beauties of the natural world, and to make the spectator conscious in some small way of the mysterious, wonderfully planned creation in which we live. The picture is pure lyric from start to finish, with no more continuity than a love song." Mr. Ells has, on occasion, been thrillingly successful in fulfilling this high charge, bringing to the screen some of the most stirring beauty it would seem possible to recreate. The cumulative effect of the relatively short study, however, is weakened by imperfect technique in the preparation of the Biblical title wordings." Movie Makers, Dec. 1938, 620.
"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.
"Lot, two reels 35mm., produced by Dr. James S. Watson, jr., ACL, and Melville Webber, may be said to be as much of an advance in motion picture technique over Fall of the House of Usher, their earlier production, as that film was an advance over standard professional cinematography. There are very few cinematographers in the world who have devoted the whole of their efforts to experimentation with the motion picture as an art medium and, in the opinion of Movie Makers' staff, there is none who has achieved the signal results of these two. Lot represents a complete innovation, not only in the treatment of the theme as a whole, but in the cinematic interpretation of the sequences. In it, the familiar tools of the advanced cinematographer, multiple exposure, trick printing, complicated lighting, symbolism, models and models in combination with life size sets are used to secure an entirely new and very beautiful cinematic representation of the Biblical story. In Lot these two amateurs have mastered the world of illusion of the motion picture but, in doing so, they have produced more than a mere novelty; they have founded a new cinematic art." Movie Makers, Dec. 1932, 538.
An avant-garde retelling of the biblical story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom (from the Book of Genesis, chapters 17-19), this film was controversial for its nudity and homoerotic overtones. (D.J. Duffy)
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