DIRECTOR: EDGAR G. ULMER. RUNNING TIME: 78 mins. DVD: SNUFFBOX CLASSICS. PRICE £12.99 CERT 12< Young Ezekial arrives in First Century Galilee to claim his inheritance of his grandfather’s carpentry business, but is told by his guardian that he is in fact the son of Jesus. Suspicion soon falls on Ezekial when a series of bizarre murders take place – the victims are all in some way connected with the crucifixion of Christ and are all bizarrely killed with huge crucifixes. The Messiah’s son soon finds himself accused of murder by the local Pharisees and denounced as an impostor by his father’s former right hand man, St Peter. Is St Peter behind the killings in an attempt to discredit Ezekial, whom he fears may become a rival as the leader of the Christian church? Another moody low-budget oddity from Ulmer, the man who brought us The Man from Planet X, Detour, Wife of Monte Cristo andDaughter of Dr Jekyll. Although obviously made with very limited resources – Galilee is represented by a set which appears to be a minimalist redressing of one of the standard back lot ‘Middle-European’ town sets – the film is highly atmospheric in places and manages to raise several thrills. Ulmer uses his dimly lit fog-wreathed sets to good effect in the sequences where the murder victims are stalked by an unseen killer. The death of the Roman soldier who thrust the spear into Jesus’ side (now retired and running a bar) is particularly impressive, as he is impaled on a crucifix. Ulmer deploys his usual cast of B-movie luminaries, including John Agar, fresh from starring in The Mole People, as a stolid Ezekial, whilst Arthur Shields is an Irish-accented St Peter. Gloria Talbott (of Daughter of Dr Jekyll fame) is the nominal love interest, and Tom Neal (Detour) is a shifty Pharisee. Look out for Richard Carlson in a cameo as Pontius Pilate.
The killer is finally revealed to be a grief-crazed Mary Magdalene (who – in a big clue that she might be mad – howls at the moon), after an abortive attempt on the life of Pilate. However, before she is unmasked hordes of villagers wielding blazing torches storm through the fog-filled streets of Galilee shouting “Kill the Messiah!”, and Ezekial narrowly avoids being crucified. In the climactic conflagration, mad Mary falls to her death from the Synagogue tower, but not before fatally stabbing heroine Gloria Talbott. Ezekial proves his heritage by raising her from the dead – St Peter prostrates himself at Ezekial’s feet and proclaims him the true heir of Christ. Ezekial declines the chance to become leader of the nascent Christian faith, instead opting for a happy married life with the resurrected Talbott. Son of Jesus should not be confused with William ‘One Shot’ Beaudine’s 1965 effort Jesse James Meets the Messiah’s Daughter or AIP’s Jean Yarbrough helmed 1967 Frankie Avalon vehicle I Was a Teenage Christ. It most definitely shouldn’t be confused with Lew Grade’s unmitigated 1980 disaster Raise the Messiah, concerning an attempt to clone Jesus.