The advertising tag "four years in the making" is usually so much press-agent puffery. In the case of the 1926 silent version of Ben Hur, it was the unvarnished truth--and the filmmakers had the scars to prove it. The story behind the film is now part of Hollywood folklore: the cast and production crew changes star George Walsh summarily dumped in favor of Roman Novarro, director Charles J. Brabin replaced by Fred Niblo, writer-supervisor June Mathis-who'd spearheaded the project in the first place-abruptly ...
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The advertising tag "four years in the making" is usually so much press-agent puffery. In the case of the 1926 silent version of Ben Hur, it was the unvarnished truth--and the filmmakers had the scars to prove it. The story behind the film is now part of Hollywood folklore: the cast and production crew changes star George Walsh summarily dumped in favor of Roman Novarro, director Charles J. Brabin replaced by Fred Niblo, writer-supervisor June Mathis-who'd spearheaded the project in the first place-abruptly fired; the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the troublesome location shooting in Italy--money that was lost when most of the footage proved unusable; the extra expenditure of refilming in Hollywood; and the huge chunk of the film's profits eaten up by the 50% royalty deal set up with theatrical producers Klaw and Erlanger, who controlled the rights to General Lew Wallace's novel. The end result reflected the turbulent production conditions: Ben Hur is an extraordinarily uneven experience, with moments of cinematic brilliance and pulse-pounding thrills alternating with long stretches of stagey boredom. The film follows the original Wallace story to the letter: Judah Ben-Hur Novarro, a wealthy Jew living under the reign of the Caesars, is betrayed by his best friend, ambitious Roman centurion Messala Francis X. Bushman. Ben-Hur's family is sent to prison, while he himself is condemned to the galleys. During a violent sea battle, Ben-Hur saves the life of galleon commander Quintus Arrius Frank Currier. The grateful commander adopts Ben-Hur as his son and bankrolls his desire to become a champion charioteer. Thirsting for revenge, Ben-Hur agrees to race against his old nemesis Messala. The latter is fatally injured during the race; with his dying breath, Messala reveals that Ben-Hur's family, previously reported dead, are actually alive--but living as lepers. The story is subtitled A Tale of the Christ because, at various junctures in his life, Ben-Hur has been touched by the hand of Jesus. Ben-Hur must totally embrace Christ's edict of love and forgiveness before he can be reunited with his family. As Jesus is crucified in Jerusalem, Ben-Hur's mother Claire McDowell and sister Kathleen Key, having also embraced the Christian philosophy, are miraculously cured of their leprosy. Most of these plot elements, together with the romance between Ben-Hur and the lovely Esther May McAvoy, reappeared in the 1959 remake of Ben-Hur--which, fortunately, did not include the ridiculous subplot involving the alluring Iras Carmel Myers, who attempts to seduce Ben-Hur just before the big race. The film's highlights--the sea battle, the now-legendary chariot race--were produced on a far grander scale than in the 1959 version; unfortunately, both highlights took place in the first half of the picture, leaving the viewers with a rather dreary, drawn out denouement the remake wisely placed the sea battle in part one, and the race in part two. The Technicolor Nativity sequences were condemned in 1926 as being in poor taste, but when seen today are beautifully handled and restful on the eye oddly, no one complained about the nude female revellers during a later Technicolor pageant scene! Ben Hur cost $4 million and grossed $9 million on its first release. The aforementioned royalty arrangement left MGM with only a $1 million take.
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Special Features

Discs 1 & 2: The 1959 film, restored frame by frame from the original 65MM camera negative; commentary by film historian T. Gene Hatcher with Charlton Heston; music-only track showcasing Miklos Rozsa’s Academy Award-winning score.
Disc 3: New special features include the feature-length documentary "Charlton Heston and Ben-Hur: A Personal Journey," featuring never-before-available images and footage from the Heston family's archives.
Disc 4: The Thames Television-restored 1925 silent version of Ben-Hur with stereophonic orchestral score by Carl Davis.
Disc 5: Vintage special features including the documentaries "Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema" and "Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic"; and "Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures," an audiovisual recreation via stills, storyboards, sketches, music, and dialogue; screen tests; highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards Telecast; newsreels and trailers.
Collectible elements include a reproduction of Charlton Heston’s personal diary from January 1958 to April 1960, chronicling his time before production started through the Academy Awards ceremony; Exclusive book with rare photos, production art, and reproductions from the original theatrical pressbook.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
After more than 40 years, one of the few biblical epics that doesn’t sacrifice humanity for spectacle, Ben-Hur -- an international box-office smash of legendary proportions and the winner of a then-unprecedented 11 Academy Awards -- still retains its power to enthrall viewers. This third movie adaptation of Lew Wallace’s bestselling novel provided Charlton Heston with perhaps his most memorable role: proud Jewish aristocrat Judah Ben-Hur, falsely accused of a crime and sold into slavery, later to confront his Roman enemies and have his life transformed by contact with Jesus Christ. Director William Wyler Best Years of Our Lives ensured success by surrounding himself with some of the industry’s greatest artisans, many of them rewarded with Oscars for their contributions to this flawlessly produced movie. Technical perfection aside, Wyler rated his Best Director Oscar for his superb handling of a fine cast including Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, and Sam Jaffe. But Ben-Hur’s undisputed highlight remains the climactic, breathtaking chariot race, for which Heston and Boyd did most of their own stunt work. That race, and the film’s other spectacular sequences, can now be fully appreciated by home viewers in the newly mastered, wide-screen DVD edition, which augments the film with an illuminating commentary by Heston. Other extras include a documentary on the production "The Making of an Epic", a gallery of stills, a theatrical trailer, and recently discovered screen tests.
New York Times - Dave Kehr
By hiring William Wyler...MGM hoped to restore some dignity to a genre that had known its greatest triumphs thanks to the enthusiastic vulgarity of Alessandro Blasetti and the inimitable Cecil B. DeMille. The magnificently produced four-disc version of "Ben-Hur" ... ably advances that claim to respectability. It's an exhaustive, almost scholarly textural compendium, with a gorgeous, crisply detailed new two-disc transfer of the 1959 film.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/27/2011
  • UPC: 883929119219
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Ultimate Collector's Edition / Wide Screen / Includes Book
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Language: English, Español
  • Time: 6:04:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 36,982

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charlton Heston Judah Ben Hur
Stephen Boyd Messala
Jack Hawkins Quintus Arrius
Haya Harareet Esther
Hugh Griffith Sheik Ilderim
Sam Jaffe Simonides
Martha Scott Miriam
Cathy O'Donnell Tirzah
Finlay Currie Balthasar
Frank Thring Pontius Pilate
Terence Longdon Drusus
Andre Morell Sextus
Marina Berti Flavia
George Relph Tiberius
Adi Berber Malluch
Stella Vitelleschi Amrah
Jose Greci Mary
Laurence Payne Joseph
John Horsley Spintho
Richard Coleman Metellus
Duncan Lamont Marius
Ralph Truman Aide to Tiberius
Richard Hale Gaspar
David Davies Quaestor
Dervis Ward Jailer
Mino Doro Gratus
Robert Brown Chief of Rowers
Maxwell Shaw Rower No. 43
Emilio Carrer Rower No. 28
Tutte Lemkow Leper
Howard Lang Hortator
John Le Mesurier Doctor
Stevenson Lang Blind Man
Hector Ross Officer
Al Silvani Man in Nazareth
Enzo Fiermonte Galley Officer
Tiberio Mitri Roman at Bath
Pietro Tordi Pilate's Servant
Jerry Brown The Corinthian
Cliff Lyons Lublon
Joe Yrigoyen Egyptian
Joe Canutt Sportsman
Michael Dugan Seaman
John Glen Rower No. 42
Ferdinand "Ferdy" Mayne Captain of Rescue Ship
Reginald Lal Singh Melchior
Karl Tunberg
Raimondo Van Riel Old Man
Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
Edward C. Carfagno Production Designer
John D. Dunning Editor
Arnold A. Gillespie Special Effects
Elizabeth Haffenden Costumes/Costume Designer
William Horning Art Director
Robert MacDonald Special Effects
Andrew Marton Asst. Director
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
Robert Surtees Cinematographer
Karl Tunberg Screenwriter
Ralph Winters Editor
Sam Zimbalist Producer
Gore Vidal Source Author
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ben-Hur: Fiftieth Anniversary - 1959 Part 1
1. Overture [6:32]
2. Nativity Prologue [5:04]
3. Credits [2:08]
4. March through Nazareth [2:15]
5. Messala in Command [1:58]
6. Fighting an Idea [3:36]
7. Still Close in Every Way [3:40]
8. A Toast [3:26]
9. Gifts Exchanged [2:36]
10. Judah's Choice [5:14]
11. Esther's Request [4:01]
12. Ring for a Kiss [4:35]
13. March into Jerusalem [2:49]
14. The Accident [3:41]
15. Jailbreak Attempt [2:45]
16. Making an Example [3:36]
17. Bondage [3:01]
18. Water from a Stranger [4:33]
19. Quintus Arrius [3:34]
20. Ramming Speed [1:00]
21. Strange, Stubborn Faith [3:50]
22. Sea Battle Begins [3:16]
23. Galley Rescues [3:59]
24. Saving Arrius [2:50]
25. Victory [2:04]
26. Divine Emperor [4:24]
27. Son of Arrius [3:41]
28. Thinking of Judea [4:08]
29. Balthazar and Ilderim [2:47]
30. Arabians Night [4:20]
31. Many paths to God [4:41]
32. Homecoming [3:39]
33. Survivors Reunited [4:06]
34. "We Stood Here Before" [4:20]
35. Confronting Messala [3:41]
36. Finding Miriam and Tirzah [3:52]
37. Vow in the Darkness [2:43]
38. "Forget Messala" [6:04]
39. Intermission [2:26]
Disc #2 -- Ben-Hur: Fiftieth Anniversary 1959 Part 2
40. Entr'acte [3:52]
41. A Wager [4:43]
42. Chariot Practice [2:12]
43. "This Is The Day" [4:17]
44. Chariot Procession [3:30]
45. Entrants [2:03]
46. Early Eliminations [4:29]
47. Neck and Neck [3:50]
48. Fallen Driver [1:37]
49. Judah Triumphant [2:01]
50. The Race Goes On [5:31]
51. Valley of the Lepers [2:15]
52. "Is Judah Well?" [4:29]
53. Thirsty Still [3:41]
54. "I am Judah Ben-Hur" [3:54]
55. Becoming Messala [:50]
56. Recovering Miriam and Tirzah [3:20]
57. Young Rabbi Sentenced [5:26]
58. Offer of Water [3:12]
59. The Crucifixiion [4:14]
60. Cleansing Rain [3:04]
61. "Hallelujah!" [4:45]
Disc #4 -- Ben-Hur: 1925 Silent Version
1. Credits [2:44]
2. Weary Travelers [5:31]
3. Signs in the Sky [4:32]
4. The Nativity [2:22]
5. Godspeed, Simonides [3:57]
6. Judah and Esther [3:47]
7. Welcoming Messala [3:52]
8. To be a Jew [4:39]
9. The Accident [3:13]
10. Arrested [2:58]
11. Water from the Carpenter [5:08]
12. The Gallery [3:44]
13. "I Live for Revenge" [2:05]
14. Battle Stations [2:17]
15. Under Siege [5:26]
16. Rescuing Arrius [2:05]
17. Adopted Son [3:40]
18. Idolized and Forgotten [4:07]
19. Nazorene's Preaching [1:55]
20. A Shiek and a Miser [4:00]
21. Last of the Hurs [3:25]
22. Offered the Reins [4:09]
23. Iras the Egyptian [4:36]
24. Seduction [2:51]
25. True Identity [3:41]
26. Messala's Curse [3:37]
27. Entering the Arena [4:21]
28. The Race Begins [5:05]
29. Victory [4:15]
30. Cause of the King [5:05]
31. Arrival in Jerusalem [2:44]
32. Unclean [1:50]
33. Nearly Reunited [7:44]
34. Vow of Silence [3:28]
35. The Condemned [4:05]
36. Route to Calvary [3:10]
37. Hur Family Miracle [2:31]
38. Morning Joy [2:36]
39. End Credits [1:25]
Disc #5 -- Ben-Hur: Vintage Special Features
1. Opening [1:30]
2. First Intimate Epic [7:53]
3. Product of the Fifties [6:11]
4. Expanding the Cinematic Experience [7:47]
5. Setting New Standards In Design [10:16]
6. Costume Design: Revealing Character [4:57]
7. Musical Score [8:38]
8. Chariot Race [7:42]
9. One for the Ages [1:42]
10. End Credits [1:00]
1. Introduction [1:38]
2. Publishing Phenomenon [4:00]
3. Major Stage Production [2:49]
4. 1907 Short Film [1:39]
5. 1925 Silent Epic [2:16]
6. Italian Production Woes [5:13]
7. Chariot Race [3:53]
8. 1959: Zimbalist and Wyler [3:04]
9. Italian Locations [3:29]
10. Sea Battle; No Script [3:20]
11. Lovers Quarrel; Rewrites [4:18]
12. Celebrity Visitors [1:09]
13. Casting an Epic [6:04]
14. "Ben-Hur Killed Him" [1:09]
15. Religious Aspects [2:21]
16. The Score; Matte Shots [2:21]
17. Chariot Sequence [6:06]
18. Crowning Achievement [:59]
19. P.R. Campaign; Academy Awards [1:16]
20. End Credits [:59]
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Disc #1 -- Ben-Hur: Fiftieth Anniversary - 1959 Part 1
   Play Movie
   Scene Selections
   Special Features
      Commentary by T. Gene Hatcher with Charlton Heston
      Music-Only Track
      Spoken Languages
         English (for the Hearing Impaired)
         Subtitles: Off
Disc #2 -- Ben-Hur: Fiftieth Anniversary 1959 Part 2
   Play Movie
   Scene Selections
   Special Features
      Commentary by T. Gene Hatcher with Charlton Heston
      Music-Only Track
      Spoken Languages
         English (for the Hearing Impaired)
         Subtitles: Off
Disc #3 -- Ben-Hur: Charlton Heston & Ben-Hur: A Personal Journey
   Charlton Heston & Ben-Hur: A Personal Journey
      Spoken Languages
         Subtitles: Off
Disc #4 -- Ben-Hur: 1925 Silent Version
   Play 1925 Version
   Scene Selections
Disc #5 -- Ben-Hur: Vintage Special Features
   Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema
   Ben-Hur: The Making Of An Epic
   Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures
   Screen Tests
      Play All
         Leslie Nielsen and Cesare Danova
         Leslie Nielsen and Yale Wexler (without sound)
         George Baker and William Russell
         Haya Harareet Hair and Make-Up Tests (without sound)
   Vintage Newsreels
      Play All
         Costliest Film Makes Screen History
         The Night Ben-Hur Comes to Broadway
         West Coast Welcomes Ben-Hur
         VIP Opening: Capital Welcome for Ben-Hur
         Japan's Emperor Goes to the Movies
         Oscar Likes Ben-Hur
   Highlights From 4/4/1960 Academy Awards Ceremony
   Theatrical Trailers
      Play All
         1959 Loew's Theater Teaser
         1959 Theatrical Trailer
         1961 General Release Trailer #1
         1961 General Release Trailer #2
         1969 70mm Re-issue Trailer
      Web Info
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010


    Next to his portrayl as Moses, THIS IS CHARLESTON HESTON, AT HIS EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY VERY BEST!!!!! He shows how versitale he is in this role as he goes from being a good decent man, to his extreme bitterness towards his fellow man, particularly his once boyhood friend, Masala,only wanting vengence, to back again to man who seeks love and forgiveness after he encounters God. This also incidental to the spectacular chariot race which took several days to film, is a very worthy addition to any movie buff's collection. DO NOT WALK, BUT RUN to get this DVD!!!

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    Posted April 16, 2010

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    Posted August 29, 2009

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    Posted May 20, 2009

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