The Thorn is a comic, religious satire movie released on May 24, 1974, as The Divine Mr. J. It was first shown as The Greatest Story Overtold at the Detroit Institute of Art in 1971. It was released on video in the early 1980s as The Thorn. It was written, directed and produced by Peter Alexander. Its release was legally challenged on grounds that its title and advertising deceptively exploited the fame of its co-star, Bette Midler.
Originally conceived as The Greatest Story Overtold, an irreverent spoof of the 1965 movie The Greatest Story Ever Told, the film was influenced by the increase in popularity and profitability of Christian evangelism. Peter McWilliams wrote, produced, directed and edited the film under the pseudonym, Peter Alexander. He went on to write a broad range of mostly self-published, popular books. It was filmed mostly in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan from 1970 to 1971.
After its premiere showing in Detroit, the film remained underground until it was released by National Entertainment Corp. as The Divine Mr. J a few years later, to capitalize on Midler’s growing fame as “The Divine Miss M.” Its premiere showing under the new title at the Festival Theater in New York City on May 24, 1974, was picketed by Midler’s agent, who also challenged the film’s title and marketing in court. The film received very poor reviews and soon closed.
The Divine Mr. J was re-released by Rochelle Films, Inc. in 1980 after Bette Midler’s starring role in The Rose.It was blocked from opening in the U.S., but it did show overseas in the early 1980s. It received poor reviews.
The film reappeared as The Thorn on a Magnum Entertainment VHS video release around 1984. It was again blocked by the courts and returned underground.