KJB book changed world as reviewed in Phantom TollboothThis DVD brings alive the drama and history behind the world’s best-seller


1a productions
90 Minutes
No extras

While many people may think of the King James Bible as being the dustiest version around, it was birthed in political factions and violent republicanism. If Guy Fawkes had succeeded in his plot, then the bible as we know it may not exist.

Award-winning director Norman Stone brings alive the history of the time as he tells the story of the book’s genesis. Well-paced, he maintains interest while taking the time to set the scene – the bible itself waits in the wings for half an hour before making its entrance.

Successor to Queen Elizabeth I, King James was a child king, surrounded by courtiers who would happily take advantage of his youth. The first third of the film tells how he was protected by a particularly impressive tutor and explains the driving forces behind the various denominations and political groups trying to mould him into their likeness.

Earmarked for possible BBC broadcast in the bible’s 400th anniversary year, this absorbing docu-drama shows how, following on from such a highly regarded queen and with the chances stacked against him, King James‘s wisdom, shrewdness and instinct for self-preservation led to him commissioning the Bible that was his greatest legacy. In doing so he united seemingly irreconcilable groups and asserted his authority.

The experienced team of Stone and writer Murray Watts expertly draw together the disparate threads of the story, using genuine locations and re-created period dress; and Presenter John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones) shows gritty enthusiasm in his narration. If anything, he is a little over-dramatic.

Some will be disappointed that there is little mention of William Tyndale, that there is little about how the text itself developed or that there are no extras – most unlike Stone, given the vast amounts of bonus material on his Man Dancin’ DVD.

However, what is here will bring alive the history that few are familiar with. Among all the publications that celebrate the bible this year, Stone’s DVD will probably be among the most accessible.

 Derek Walker