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This 1959 version of Lew Wallace's best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. ...Show synopsisThis 1959 version of Lew Wallace's best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts the tale of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who lives in Judea with his family during the time that Jesus Christ was becoming known for his "radical" teachings. Ben-Hur's childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) is now an ambitious Roman tribune; when Ben-Hur refuses to help Messala round up local dissidents on behalf of the emperor, Messala pounces on the first opportunity to exact revenge on his onetime friend. Tried on a trumped-up charge of attempting to kill the provincial governor (whose head was accidentally hit by a falling tile), Ben-Hur is condemned to the Roman galleys, while his mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Cathy O'Donnell) are imprisoned. But during a sea battle, Ben-Hur saves the life of commander Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), who, in gratitude, adopts Ben-Hur as his son and gives him full control over his stable of racing horses. Ben-Hur never gives up trying to find his family or exact revenge on Messala. At crucial junctures in his life, he also crosses the path of Jesus, and each time he benefits from it. The highlight of the film's 212 minutes is its now-legendary chariot race, staged largely by stunt expert Yakima Canutt. Ben-Hur's Oscar haul included Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for Heston, and Best Supporting Actor for Welsh actor Hugh Griffith as an Arab sheik. ~ Hal Erickson, RoviHide synopsis
TITLE: Ben Hur
GENRE: Biblical Epic
CAST: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith and Sam Jaffe
PLOT: Re-union of boyhood friends does not go well at all. One has become a Roman ruler in Judea and the other is a prosperous Hebrew, our hero, Judah Ben Hur. Their conflict forces the Roman Massala(Boyd) to exile Hur into galley rowing slavery. During a sea battle, Hur saves the life of the Roman Consul and is rewarded by eventually becoming the adopted son of the Consul. Returning to Judea for revenge, we pass through the sport of the era, Chariot racing. Hur had become one of Rome city's most celebrated drivers; while in Judea, Massala is the eastern Empire's best, The duel in the Chariot race is acknowledged as a few of the most suspenseful moments in Hollywood history. Hur renounces Rome, seeks his family out, gets to see Jesus perform miracles and die. The Christ story part of this is central yet is played down only to be resurrected when the other story stumbles.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT: 7 of 10; at almost 4 hours (and it'll be longer than that if you do the DVD extras), you need to sit through poor character development which is the big drawback. The rest of the film is to be as expected from such a huge budget blockbuster. The movie's music score, the costume, the sets and stunts are all top notch.
DVD BONUSES: Heston comments on the making in a parallel track. The filmography of several actors is given
ADDED NOTES: This movie is all about the chariot race. Heston (and Boyd) had to join the ranks of less than a dozen skilled drivers of four horse chariots in the world. He even, he says, had to work as an extra at times when the chariots were shown at range and drivers were needed. (I think I saw him once or twice as the driver during some horse practice run scenes. Yes, this battle with horses is worth watching the movie for (But if that's all you want to see, It's just after the intermission on side 2)
This is one of the greatest epic films ever made! My whole family enjoyed it and we are talking about children who ranged in age from 8 to 15 the first time we watched it! It is still a family favorite! The story is one for the ages with a truly inspirational message!
We watched this movie about twice a year in Latin class (wow, I've probably watched this 10 times) and never does it hit us as boring. It takes a classic/historical time period and helps its viewers empathize and understand the struggles of the time. The friendship of Juda and Messala, family loyalty, clashes among populations, hope in spirituality and faith, etc... it's just an eye-opening adventure.