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March 10, 2009

Sodom (with or without Gomorrah) in Louisiana

Louisiana Movies reports that the ancient city of Sodom, built for Harold Ramis's biblical comedy Year One (which opens June 19), is still standing in northwest Louisiana, and local movie types hope to rent it out to other filmmakers as well.

The next movie to use these sets would not have to be a biblical epic, per se -- as reporter Alexandyr Kent notes, the city could be turned into all sorts of other places with a bit of re-dressing -- but certainly many films in this genre have cut down on costs by re-using sets that were built for other movies. My favorite example of this is Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979), which was filmed in Tunisia on sets built for Franco Zeffirelli's considerably more reverent mini-series Jesus of Nazareth (1977). Who knows? Perhaps, in a reversal of that precedent, the Year One sets could be used in a more pious production somewhere down the road. But would the makers of that film admit to the link between the two films as freely as the Pythons acknowledged their debt to Zeffirelli?

The makers of even earlier biblical epics didn't have to deal with such questions very much, since they were less inclined to share their work in the first place. Cecil B. DeMille famously destroyed the sets for the silent version of The Ten Commandments (1923) and buried them in the California desert, lest anyone take advantage of his monuments and beat him to the big screen with a cheap imitation of his movie. And I have heard similar stories about the massive sets that were built for some of the 1950s Bible epics, too.

Related Tags: jesus of nazareth, monty python's life of brian, ten commandments, year one