He led the Israelites through the desert in The Ten Commandments. He baptized Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told. So Charlton Heston certainly has the cred to host Charlton Heston’s voyage through the Bible: New Testament (Jones Digital, CD-ROM for PC and Mac, $39.95). One half of a series (an Old Testament disc is due next spring), this disc is based on a 1992 documentary series Heston made for the Arts & Entertainment cable network. But incorporating footage from that production into this CD-ROM proves as troublesome as fitting a camel through the eye of a needle.
Narrating stories from Jesus’ life, drawn from the King James translation of the Gospels, an offscreen Heston booms and resonates with biblical authority. He’s convincing, for example, as both Mary and Jesus, bickering at the wedding where he performs his water-into-wine miracle. But dropping in footage from the TV show kills the mood. Not only is the soundtrack of his on-camera speeches distractingly poor and as fuzzy as a bad phone connection, but his outsize gestures look silly on an undersize patch of moving video. The sound and the video don’t match the inherent drama of the message and the messenger.
If this disc makes a mixed blessing out of Heston’s performance, it does a better job with one thing that multimedia can do very well: linking materials from different sources to enhance understanding. Along with the 15 stories Heston tells are the corresponding texts of the four Gospels, tours and a map of relevant sites in ancient Palestine, and slide shows tracing how different artists have portrayed the same scenes from the life of Jesus. As a guide, Heston has his heart in the right place. But as an actor, he’s on the wrong stage. B