Screen Pilates: Keith Mitchell

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Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer and Dennis King may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here and here.

CBS broadcast a film adaptation of Jim Bishop’s book The Day Christ Died in 1980.  Bishop hated the film adaptation, had his name removed from the credits and attempted unsuccessfully to change the name of the film.

Keith Mitchell, best known as King Henry VIII in The Six Wives of Henry VIII gives a powerful portrayal as Pilate.  Pilate is interpreted by Mitchell as a politician who, by his own admission, believes in nothing other than his career.  He is disturbed by his wife’s desire to spare Christ.  He is intrigued by Christ and views Him as a mysterious figure.  Ultimately he reluctantly decides to have Christ crucified when Caiaphas accuses him of disloyalty to Caesar, at least that is the public excuse for him literally washing his hands of the matter before the mob.  A glance by Pilate at the pitcher prior to him offering the choice between Barabbas and Christ indicates that he planned what he would do if the mob chose Barabbas.  A good portrayal of Pilate that catches what a tricky character he no doubt was, rather than the straight forward Pilate of most other retellings of the Passion.

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