History Channel // 2008 // 208 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // May 2nd, 2009
Lust. Envy. Gluttony. Sloth. Greed. Anger. Pride.
They all exist in each of us...
In recent months, I've been reading more and more articles/reviews claiming The History Channel has lost much of its viability as a supreme source for education. Some have stated their standards from the '90s have dropped due to fact-twisting and excessive theories. Surely certain programs go off topic and travel in unnecessary directions, but I still respect the Channel for providing more food for thought than most other cable stations.
Case in point: the 2008 mini-series Seven Deadly Sins, which focuses on the "secret histories" of these Christian crimes that are never mentioned in the Bible. Truth is, they were created solely for ethical interests of the early church. Those who wish to buy into the sins as a secondary list of commandments are free to do so, although they seem less threatening in the 21st century (with a few exceptions, of course). Back in medieval times, it was considered heresy to even think about these sins, let alone commit them.
While Seven Deadly Sins bites off more than it can chew -- as well as being repetitive in its approach -- it's certainly watchable and largely fascinating. The History Channel and Flight 33 productions produced seven episodes, each focusing on a particular sin. Each episode runs approximately 44 minutes.
Lust: Ahh, yes, the inordinate craving for carnal pleasure. Or, sexual desire so powerful it overcomes and destroys. We delve into the Church's handling of the sin, how simply looking at the opposite sex could qualify as lust, as well the somewhat merciful punishment these sinners get in Dante's The Divine Comedy. Notable guilty parties include Caligula, Hester Prynne, and Michael Jackson.
Envy: The wrath-like desire to want what others have, or ensuring they do not have it. Today, this is more or less synonymous with jealousy, although this episode attempts to point out the differences between the two. This is one of those sins that seems to be inside all of us at some point in this modern age. For some, it's merely kept in thought while to others it's an all-consuming effect which could lead to serious psychological problems. Notable guilty parties include Antonio Salieri, Iago (in Shakespeare's Othello), and Pope Gregory. This episode also pays quite a bit of attention to Sigmund Freud's re-interpretation of envy.
Gluttony: To the church, excessive overeating impeded ones' ability to pray. Considered the most paradoxical of the sins, gluttony is emphasized as not only a spiritual sin but also a sin against your own body, which was given by God. Notable guilty parties include Mr. Creosote, Garfield the Cat, and Rush Limbaugh.
Sloth: Quite possibly the most ridiculous of all the sins. Yet, it's also in many ways the most complex, with many symptoms attached to its description. As the name suggests, this sin represents a lethargic attitude or extreme laziness, including an aversion to work. Recent centuries have also included sadness, self-pity, low self esteem, depression, and even suicide to the mix. Back in ancient Greece, this was considered a disease, curable only via an exorcism. Notable guilty parties include the philosopher Diogenes and heiress Barbara Hutton.
Greed: The sin that puts a price on everything, the rapacious desire for wealth and property. You know the old saying, "when they invented money, they invented greed"? Not so, as it's possible to be greedy over non-monetary items of value. Land is a perfect example. One of the more interesting subjects of this episode is Simony, which is the payments priests took for numerous duties including confession; evidently, this was so blasphemous that Dante even created a circle in Hell just for them. Notable guilty parties include Gordon the Gecko and AIG executives.
Anger/Wrath: Even though this sin sounds purely emotional in nature, in actuality it's the deadliest, as it leads to violence and murder more often than not. This episode also includes the sin's influence on war and cruelty. Notable guilty parties include Moses, Adolf Hitler and Khan Noonien Singh.
Pride: Like Sloth, the final sin also incorporates a number of different types which are all related via pride. They include narcissism, vanity, rudeness, competition, and humility. Focus is put on angels (including Lucifer) and how they lost pride, as well as Adam and Eve's disrespect to God by listening to the talking snake in the Garden of Eden. However, the most intriguing segment here concerns the Amish and how they avoid the committing the sin as much as possible, yet still cannot entirely escape from it. Notable guilty parties include Napoleon, Jakob Annan, and Martha Stewart.
All of these episodes give a rough history of the Sins from their earliest descriptions by a Monk name Evagrius Pontricrus to Dante's incorporation of them in The Divine Comedy. In typical History Channel style, talking heads are combined with paintings and "recreated footage," with the latter sometimes coming off as rather cheesy. What's most annoying, however, is the triteness of the miniseries, as each episode insists on giving us the exact same introduction to the sins and some of the historical subjects. Aside from these hiccups there is still much to relish here, whether you are generally interested in the material or not. As to the DVD presentation, it's the same old full-frame, DD 2.0 stereo, extra-less aspects provided by other History Channel documentaries.
Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 208 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated