Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur

4.7 23
Director: William Wyler

Cast: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins

     
 

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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. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts theSee more details below

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Overview

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. 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. Framed on a charge of attempting to kill the provincial governor, 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 British actor Hugh Griffith as an Arab sheik.

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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.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
William Wyler's Ben-Hur is the quintessential Hollywood biblical epic: a huge story, given a suitably exalted treatment, splashed across a broad canvas, and centered on a pair of well-drawn central characters. It's easy to forget that the film was the culmination of a cycle of religious epics that dated back slightly more than a decade, and closed out the genre as a viable Hollywood phenomenon. Since Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah in 1949, the public had shown a willingness to spend money on screen stories adapted from (or inspired by) the Old or New Testaments; the advent of the Cold War and the threat of thermo-nuclear annihilation likely made filmgoers start thinking about God, heaven, and the hereafter more than usual. Apart from MGM's trouble-plagued Quo Vadis? and 20th Century Fox's The Robe and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators, however, few of the resulting movies did more than modest business at the box office, and none received any serious critical respectability. Ben-Hur proved to be an exception: Wyler's direction is sure and carefully balanced, avoiding any hint of the campiness and awkward line delivery that broke the verisimilitude of many of the other films; Charlton Heston, though far from the first choice for the title role (Paul Newman and Rock Hudson both turned it down), brings a compelling intensity to his performance; and Jack Hawkins' work as father figure Quintus Arrius lent the film a dignity comparable to Finlay Currie's St. Peter and Leo Genn's Petronius in Quo Vadis? Coupled with Yakima Canutt's stunt direction, those virtues proved unbeatable. Ben-Hur was the most expensive movie in MGM's history (perhaps not coincidentally, the 1926 silent version of the story had also been the most expensive non-sound production in the studio's history), but it ended up playing for two years in venues all over the world. The film earned enough money to keep the studio solvent, allowing them to acquire other films of this kind for distribution, most notably Nicholas Ray's King of Kings. Ben-Hur was virtually the last film of its kind made in Hollywood, or by Hollywood -- costs were too high to do too many more, and it also seemed as though audiences had seen most of the religious stories that were worth their moviegoing dollars. With the exception of box-office disasters such as The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Bible, most subsequent examples of the genre would be produced in Europe.
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:
02/07/2012
UPC:
0883929209453
Original Release:
1959
Rating:
G
Source:
Warner Home Video
Time:
3:42:00
Sales rank:
47,428

Special Features

Commentary by film historian T. Gene Hatcher with Charlton Heston; Music-only track showcasing Miklós Rózsa's award-winning score; Theatrical trailer

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 Actor
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
Gore Vidal Source Author
Ralph Winters Editor
Sam Zimbalist Producer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ben-Hur - Part 1
1. Overture [6:32]
2. Nativity Prologue [5:04]
3. Credits [2:08]
4. March Throug 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 - 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 Crucifixion [4:14]
60. Cleansing Rain [3:04]
61. "Hallelujah!" [4:45]

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