The film is framed as a group of performers who travel to the desert to re-enact the Passion of Christ. The film begins with them arriving on a bus, assembling their props, and getting into costume. One of the group is surrounded by the others, puts on a white robe, and emerges as Jesus Christ (“Overture”).
Judas (Anderson) is worried about Jesus’ popularity. He is being hailed as the Son of God, but Judas feels He is just a man, and fears the consequences of their growing movement (“Heaven on Their Minds”). The other disciples badger Jesus for information about his plans for the future, but Jesus will not give them any (“What’s the Buzz?”). Judas’ arrival and subsequent declaration that Jesus should not associate with Mary dampens the mood. Angrily, Jesus tells Judas that he should leave Mary alone, because his slate is not clean. He then accuses all the apostles of not caring about him (“Strange Thing Mystifying”).
Caiaphas is worried that the people will crown Jesus as king, which will upset the Romans. Annas tries to calm him, but he finally sees Caiaphas’ point, and suggests that he convene the council and explain his fears to them. Caiaphas agrees (“Then We Are Decided”). As Jesus and his apostles settle for the night, Mary soothes him with some expensive ointment, but Judas says that the money spent should have been given to the poor. Jesus rebukes him again, telling him that the poor will be there always, but Jesus will not (“Everything’s Alright”).
Meanwhile, the council of the priests discuss their fears about Jesus. Caiaphas tells them that there is only one solution: like John the Baptist, Jesus must be executed for the sake of the nation (“This Jesus Must Die”). Jesus and his followers joyfully arrive in Jerusalem, but Caiaphas orders Jesus to disband the crowd for fear of a riot. Jesus refuses and speaks to the crowd (“Hosanna”).
Later, the apostle Simon Zealotes (Marshall) and a crowd of followers, voice their admiration for Jesus (“Simon Zealotes”). Jesus appreciates this, but becomes worried when Simon suggests directing the crowd towards an uprising against their Roman occupiers. Jesus sadly dismisses this suggestion, saying that they do not understand His true purpose (“Poor Jerusalem”).
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Directed by: Norman Jewison
Starring: Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Larry Marshall, Josh Mostel, Kurt Yaghjian, Paul Thomas
Screenplay by: Melvyn Bragg, Norman Jewison
Production Design by: Richard Macdonald
Cinematography by: Douglas Slocombe
Film Editing by: Antony Gibbs
Costume Design by: Yvonne Blake
Art Direction by: John Clark
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: August 15, 1973