23.5 Degrees Movie Review: Bloodline---The Movie - Mania.com

23.5 Degrees

Mania Grade: D-

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  • Movie: Bloodline--The Movie
  • Written By: Bruce Burgess
  • Directed By: Bruce Burgess
  • Produced By: Rene Barnett
  • Distributed By: Cinema Libre Studio

23.5 Degrees Movie Review: Bloodline---The Movie

What if the Greatest Story Ever Told was a lie?

By Jason Rhodes     May 24, 2008

The stained glass window from Kilmore Church in Dervaig, Scotland featured in BLOODLINE(2008).
© Cinema Libre Studio

Sidestepping inconvenient historical details and unburdened by factual evidence, director Bruce Burgess, whose prior directorial masterpieces include Dreamland: Area 51, The Bermuda Triangle Solved? and Bigfootville, takes a running leap and catapults himself squarely onto the Dan Brown bandwagon in Bloodline, with longtime cohort René Barnett (major title credits - same) taking the producer's bows. 

Roughly 45 historical errors (give or take) into the film, Burgess reassures us that the Catholic Church’s cover-up of a married Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene is genuine, "proven". In a dimly lit grainy close-up shot, trepidation on his face and in his voice, Burgess half-whispers: "it's all true."

Bloodline builds on the themes first introduced by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln's 1982 pseudo-historical book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. The story centers on a 19th century priest, Abbé Bérenger Saunière, from the remote rural French village of Rennes-le-Chateau, whose sudden unexplained wealth and extravagant spending habits from 1890 to 1910 have fueled endless speculations about its source.

Did he find a hidden Templar treasure in the environs of Rennes-le-Chateau? Or was it Visigoth loot? Or a cache of precious artifacts from Solomon's Temple? Or the tomb of a Merovingian king? Or of Mary Magdalene, the exiled bride of Jesus Christ? Or something so detrimental to the Catholic Church that he was paid handsomely for his silence? Or was it the Habsburg family who paid him off?

Ask 10 different RLC enthusiasts and you'll get fifteen different answers—all "proven" without benefit of actual "proof." Evidence is the bête noir of the alternative historian. Where it exists, it must be discounted as false or inconclusive if it contradicts the alternative hypothesis; where it does not exist, the informational void is chalked up to intentional destruction and a conspiracy of silence.

Thus the cottage industry of books and documentaries that grew from seeds first sown in "Holy Blood"—and culminating in Dan Brown's blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code—seems assured of a long life so long as questions can never actually be answered, only selectively interpreted from a long list of possibilities.

Barnett and Burgess have produced a virtual Frankenfilm that builds ever higher on the myths, speculations, and fabrications stacked precariously like a house of cards in countless retellings over three decades.

Here you will find the usual suspects, mainly B-list British researchers whose names are familiar to anyone who's followed the RLC enigma. Creepy characters drop cryptic breadcrumbs on behalf of the Priory of Sion, the arch-conspiratorial wing of the Knights Templar who claim to have maintained the secrets of Jesus and Mary Magdalene's "bloodline" down through the centuries (but whose own lineage begins only in 1956).

But Barnett and Burgess succeed where other have failed by bringing us something we can actually see on film - a tomb discovered by amateur archaeologist Bill Wilkinson, aka Ben Hammott, an anagram of "The Tombman", who discovered it by dropping his video camera down a hole in a clumsy moment. Luckily for Wilkinson, his camera always seems to be running at the right time to record sensational finds, which usually occur each time he alights from his battered camper, including coded messages in bottles buried inches below topsoil signed by Abbé Saunière himself, and a chest containing 1st century Herodian-era artifacts touted as the perfume jar and wedding cup of Jesus and Magdalene.

If authenticity is lacking in the back-story, it doesn't advance to the forefront as a result of these new evidential finds. Dr. Gabriel Barkay, professor of Biblical archaeology at Bar Ilan University in Jerusalem, is careful to note that while the Herodian relics can be authentically dated to the 1st century CE, such relics can be easily obtained from antiquities dealers (BiblicalArtifacts.com has a nice selection of identical perfume jars at surprisingly reasonable prices, as does eBay). Dr. Robert Eisenmann of California State University, Long Beach echoes similar cautionary statements regarding artifacts recovered under less-than-scientific conditions.

Even the bottled notes attributed to Saunière, written in French, contain several grammatical errors and a sentence structure that reads like English translated word-for-word into French with the aid of a dictionary. One of these notes, purportedly signed by Saunière, shows his name incorrectly accented with an “aigu” instead of a “grave” - a faux pas that no native speaker of French would be guilty of making.

The central piece of evidence revealed in Bloodline is a mummified corpse found in Wilkinson’s accidentally discovered tomb, wrapped in a white linen mantle emblazoned with the red cross of the Knights Templar. The linen looks remarkably white, well-preserved, and rot-free for having survived a millennium of dampness at the base of a subterranean cave in the French Pyrénnées.

Open boxes of gleaming polished chalices near the body were similarly unaffected by time and oxidation, not unlike the props on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland.

Hairs extracted from the head of the corpse (the extraction was not shown on camera) were sent to the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University (Canada) for analysis. According to Barnett and Burgess, the result of Mitochondrial DNA testing revealed a Middle Eastern origin for the deceased (ergo, this could conceivably be Mary Magdalene, although they seemed to have arrived at that conclusion well in advance).

Well - yes and no. The report from Lakehead was shown on camera and identifies the mtDNA sample as belonging to Haplogroup I, which migrated out of the Near East and into Europe between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago prior to the last Ice Age. It is virtually unknown outside of Europe, but is no stranger to the French Pyrénnées. One major subculture belonging to this haplogroup settled in southern France and Northern Spain 10,000 to 20,000 years ago during the period archaeologists refer to as the "âge du Renne", or Age of the Reindeer.

And, perhaps tellingly, this group is called the "Magdalenian Culture" - the name being derived not from Mary Magdalene, but from an excavation site called La Madeleine in the Dordogne region of southern France where its relics were discovered in the 19th century.

But forget all those bothersome dates and inconvenient details that tend to unnerve alternative historians and spoil a good story - "Renne", "Magdalenian" - close enough, right? Why split hairs?

Adorning the Bloodline poster is an image known and loved by Magdalene devotees far and wide - a stained glass window from the Kilmore Church in Dervaig, Scotland, touted as portraying Jesus and a pregnant Mary Magdalene in a wedding pose. What one never sees on Magdalene fan websites - and certainly won’t see here - is the memorial inscription on the lower portion of the window identifying the young lady as Miss Mary Forrest, who died unmarried in 1904.

The poster can be downloaded for free from the Bloodline website and fans are encouraged to distribute it widely at their own expense.

Perhaps the most saccharine moment of the film came when a forensic artist drew a life image from a photo of the mummified corpse - a female figure, naturally, although the lab at Lakehead has since pointed out that their test did not reveal the gender of the corpse. The Magdalene fans in the audience could be heard sighing their approval, although one seated near me expressed disappointment that the artist made her a brunette instead of a redhead.  

The inconsistencies aren't limited to what is captured on celluloid. During a Q&A session following a screening at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theater in West Hollywood, California, producer Barnett crowed over Bloodline's "sold out" performances, adding that the film had out-grossed Speed Racer on its opening weekend. Not exactly. Speed Racer played on 3,606 screens nationally and grossed over $18.5 million in its opening weekend, while Bloodline appeared on one screen and took in a grand total of $6,658.00 (as reported to Box Office Mojo).

Bloodline wasn't even the highest ranking new release in the New York theater it premiered in—Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead opened the same weekend at the Village East Cinema, taking in $10,624.00.

On it's second weekend, playing on three screens (one in New York, two in Los Angeles), Bloodline grossed $12,875.00—an average of $4,291.00 per theater representing a 35% decline in revenue from its opening weekend. 

Still, the Laemmle was filled to near capacity when Barnett made this announcement. At the conclusion of the Q&A, the audience (approximately 200 people) was offered free tickets to any future screening, which raised questions about whether or not most who see this film are actually buying their seats. Papering the house doesn't exactly equate to selling out the house, and the lackluster grosses reported after premiere weekends on two coasts doesn't bode well for a national release, let alone recouping the $1.5 million spent getting lipstick on this pig.

Bloodline is being shown in selected theaters in a platform release (industry term for “rented theaters”) in New York and Los Angeles, and moves to Yelm, Washington at the end of June.


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spiderhero 5/24/2008 4:41:34 AM
Thanks for a thoughtful, educated review. I'm not sure why this subject matter is so popular. I guess there are alot of conspiracy lovers out there.
buzzkill 5/24/2008 7:44:18 AM
I saw this LAME film and couldn't agree more with the reviewer's assessment. The DNA evidence makes perfect sense, there's no valid reason to believe a dead body with DNA that is common to that area actually came from the Holy Land. It also seemed that every shot taken in the cave showed that all the artefacts kept moving around despite Burgess saying that they never physically went down in the hole. So how did they get lights down there and get such steady close-ups on the face of the body? The whole thing looked staged and I didn't buy it for a minute. My friend and I didn't pay for our tickets either, Renee Barnett was handing them out like Halloween candy just to get people into the theater. I sat next to a group of four people who likewise didn't pay for their tickets. This film is a total sham.
Mnemosyne 5/24/2008 3:16:53 PM
I didn't see Bloodline as I was at Speedracer. What AMAZES me is how does someone have the good fortune to drop their video camera down a hole in a "clumsy moment" and end up with clear footage of a tomb with a body no less wrapped in white linen with a blood red cross on it. Odds? Someone--please give me the odds of this happening. Thank goodness there were some people who made wise choices and saw "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead" instead.
velgron 5/25/2008 7:37:05 AM
I LOVE conspiracy theories... but is does not mean I believe in them... They are a kind of "historical fiction" (HisFi). But just like SciFi sometimes hits a target and they come true (for example 10000 leagues under the sea), HisFi may also have "something" in it. I really wish that there was a bloodline, but so far nothing has been convincing (and I read Holy Blood Holy Grail cover to cover!). But then, there is also a Conspiracy theory that Jesus never existed, so... you never know. And, where can I see Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead?
kamchatka 5/26/2008 12:13:00 PM
Thank you for your excellent review of Bloodline, The Movie. Here in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia (old-USSR), we love historical documentaries. From the clips I have seen on American ABC web-site, it looks like very serious documentary. When Da Vinci Code, the Movie, starring Mr Thomas Hanks, opens here in the autumn, I'm sure it will be big hit. From what I have heard, there may even be some historical errors in the Da Vinci Code. For example, your BBC believes that Mr Jesus Christ died in Japan: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/5326614.stm Perhaps that is why Japanese people eat so much fish?! Does anyone know if there is a movie planned to expose that conspiracy? I would happily pay 10 lari (about $7) to see Sushi Code, The Movie! Please remember, even your great Mr William Shakespeare made some historical mistakes in his plays, for example, clocks striking in Julius Caesar, the Play. Therefore, please don't be too tough on Bloodline! Is Poultrygeist also a conspiracy movie? It must be wonderful to live in a country where such great films are made, which treat their audiences as serious, rational people who want to understand about all the conspiracies all around them. It is just a tragedy that some American films are anti-USSR, such as Borat and new Indiana Jones movies. Is someone planning to make a movie of the Stella Maris columns? I think it would be a big hit here in Georgia. I have tried to find Miss MM Smith's album, The Egg, but alas without success. It sounds amazing! Maybe it could be the soundtrack for Miss Maris's movie?
Mnemosyne 5/26/2008 4:52:59 PM
Good news for those living in LA! Looks like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead will open there June 13th. I believe the movie is about a zombie chicken.
buzzkill 5/26/2008 5:38:38 PM
I'd see Poultrygeist in a heartbeat before I sit through Bloodlie again (and no, that's not a typo). I've been looking at other reviews for this movie and for the most part they're all pretty bad. <BR /><BR />Mr. Kamchatka, I'm a big fan of your vodka. I use it to fill my lighters when I run out of butane. Very smooth, you can hardly taste the potatoes.<BR /><BR /> BTW, this review is now available at Digg.
kamchatka 5/26/2008 11:42:20 PM
Dear Mr Buzzkill, Thank you for your comment, but do you know you can even drink vodka?- it's not just used for fuel here. If you buy expensive brands of vodka, you can drink it without going blind for three days!<br /> <br /> We have a proverb here that even a bad movie seems good if you drink enough vodka. Maybe if you drink enough vodka, Bloodline, The Movie will seem like great movie - even masterpiece. I hope perhaps one day Mr Burgess, who made Bloodline, The Movie, will make Sushi Code, The Movie. If my personal conspiracy theory is true that Japanese people eat so much fish because of holy parabola of five loafs and three fishes, maybe with enough vodka audiences will believe this too or at least see that it can be historically accurate like Bloodline, The Movie. After all, as the very bad man, Mr Pontii Pilat asked, "What is truth?" Perhaps, this is one of major themes of Mr Burgess's great film? I am sure all Maniac people know great Soviet novel about Mr Jesus Christ, called Master and Magdalena (by Mr Bulgakov). Curiously for me, it is set in Jerusalem and not Japan, but such historical inaccuracy could be corrected in artistic movie with great director.
Questionthis 6/8/2008 7:17:31 PM
I felt I needed to speak up in the midst of all of the self congratulatory cynicism. I sent an intern out with the team to see if they could get some interesting B Roll footage - all of the finds are genuine. Next on studying a little further Jason Rhodes will find that Sauniere consistantly uses “aigu†instead of a “graveâ€. There is a reason for this. So if the finds are genuine the critique should sit around the film making and not the amateur archeologists who are far from stupid. These are without doubt the most meaningful finds to come out of Rennes.
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