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Ben-Hur [1959] [DVD] [Dual Disc Format]*

Charlton Heston , Jack Hawkins , William Wyler    Parental Guidance   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
Price: £3.97 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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*This Item Contains a Dual-Sided Disc
Please note that some or all of the discs in this product are in a dual-sided format. This means that the disc must be turned over halfway through to view the content in its entirety.

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Product details

  • Actors: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Hugh Griffith
  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Writers: Christopher Fry, Gore Vidal, Karl Tunberg, Lew Wallace, Maxwell Anderson
  • Producers: Joseph Vogel
  • Format: PAL, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Bulgarian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: 5 Nov 2001
  • Run Time: 213 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005BCEW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,059 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Ben-Hur scooped an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards in 1959 and, unlike some later rivals to this record-breaking win, richly deserved every single one. This is epic filmmaking on a scale that had not been seen before, and is unlikely ever to be seen again. It cost a staggering 15 million dollars and was one of the largest film productions ever undertaken: the Circus Maximus set alone covered 18 acres and was filled with 40,000 tons of Mediterranean sand. But it's not just running time or a cast of thousands that makes an epic, it's the subject-matter that counts and in Ben-Hur the subject is rich, detailed and sensitively handled. Despite both the original novel's and the film's subtitle, "A Tale of the Christ", this is really a parallel life, that of Prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and his estrangement from old Roman pal Messala (Stephen Boyd). The eponymous character's journey of self-discovery through bitterness and hate to eventual redemption has many deliberate echoes of Christ's life (at one point, Judah is mistaken for Jesus, much as Brian would be later in Monty Python's masterful satire), and the multi-layered script from (uncredited) literary titans Gore Vidal and Christopher Fry wrings out every nuance and every possible shade of meaning.

Director William Wyler, who had been a junior assistant on MGM's original silent version back in 1925, never sacrifices the human focus of the story in favour of spectacle (he had the good sense to leave the great chariot race to second-unit director and experienced stuntman Yakima Canutt), and it is his concentration on human drama and fully rounded characters that gives Wyler's epic its heart. In this he is aided immeasurably by Miklós Rózsa's majestic musical score, arguably the greatest ever written for a Hollywood picture, in which the development of character-driven leitmotifs produces the effect of grand opera. The Christian theme concentrates on the central character's love and compassion for his family (evoked by the discovery of their leprosy) rather than any heavy-handed sermonising (the figure of Christ is seen but never heard--his presence signalled by a serene musical motif instead).

On the DVD: this long-awaited release presents the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.76:1 in a glorious anamorphic print, complete with remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The music sounds fresher than ever, and both the theatrical "Overture" and "Entracte" are included (civilised times the 1950s: they had specially composed intermission music to enjoy while topping up on ice cream and popcorn!). There's an extensive and enjoyable documentary tracing the history of the story from Lew Wallace through stage productions to the first MGM version in 1925 and then to the 1959 production. Charlton Heston provides an intermittent commentary, evidently enjoying the experience of watching the film again, and his comments are usefully indexed so you can skip to the next bit without having to sit through chunks of silence (during the chariot race he voiced his concern to second-unit director Yakima Canutt that the stuntmen were better drivers. Replied Canutt: "Chuck, just drive the damn chariot and I guarantee that you'll win"). There's also a couple of screen tests, one with Leslie Nielsen in pre-Naked Gun days as Messala and a photo gallery and theatrical trailers complete an epic DVD package. --Mark Walker

Product Description

DVD MGM/UA, 7321900655064, 1959 Region 2 PAL DIGI

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental Achievement 9 Nov 2011
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Ben Hur is, quite simply, a lesson in filmmaking. Once you take a step back its hard to believe that, what is arguably one of the top ten greatest motion pictures of all time was produced over 50-years ago, and twelve-million dollars was breaking the bank of MGM. Yet it remains as epic as what it surely must have been when it was first released, and perhaps most prevalent, is even more inspiring than what can expect today from any release. This is sad, for it demonstrates that no matter how much computer power you can pack into a room, or how monstrous a budget the studio and producer are willing to settle, neither technology nor money can conjure up epic craftsmanship. It is clearly a sign that something has gone wrong when we can today fail so miserably with more resources than anyone could even need.

This is where Ben Hur strikes hot - the amount of heart that was put in to every single aspect of the production. The whole reason MGM were willing to spend so much when they were already in trouble was to create the "modern masterpiece", the film to which others could be judged beside. This testament holds true even now. When you watch the famous chariot race scene, you are completely aware that just about every Health and Safety procedure we know today is completely abandoned. So crucifying are some of the stunts and moves as thrown riders are dodging and trampled by horses that you can't help but gasp and cringe.

Equally, Heston's inspiring performance cannot help but bring a tear to the eyes of anyone watching as he is reunited with mother and sister at the end of the film, following the sacrifices of 'Jesus'.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Quintessential Sword & Sandal Epic 12 April 2012
For larger-than-life films, Ben-Hur is probably my all time favourite. It is probably the single greatest performance ever given by Charlton Heston and arguably the greatest epic ever filmed. The ambitious cinematography and music scoring certainly added to the final, stunning end result and were responsible, cumulatively, for my viewing of this masterpiece many, many times during my youth and early adulthood.
When I ordered this Blu-Ray set from I was prepared to be disappointed as previous re-processed, re-mastered and re-anything else films I've ordered have fallen short of the mark to me. Not this one, I am happy to report!

This 3-disc set is packaged in a nice slipcover box containing the three BD discs (no booklets or other extras in this set). We get the 1959 film Ben-Hur spread over discs 1 & 2 for maximum quality (with minimum compression) and it's original aspect ratio of 2.76:1. Filmed on 70mm stock utilizing 65mm for picture information and the remaining 5mm for its 6-channel stereo soundtrack, MGM called this amazing widescreen technology Camera 65. In general parlance this was Ultra-Panavision, the widest of the wide screen formats (it was used subsequently in the single-camera Cinerama releases which followed the triple-screen presentation How the West Was Won). Ergo: Ben-Hur was filmed in the widest format ever used! Note the attention to composition, scene-balance and lighting that the cinematographer (Surtees) and Director (Wyler) exhibited here. Great stuff!

Ben-Hur has been painstakingly restored.
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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest films ever made. 17 Feb 2006
By A Customer
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Warner Bros.have gone and done it again.You know the story by now so let's just focus on this gorgeous 4 disc presentation.
The print has got to be seen to be believed,crisp sharp,colourful everything this classic deserves.
And what of the extras? WOW!!! First of all you get two documentaries-one from 1994 which was on the 2001 edition but the one made in 2005 is so impressive.
The best extra ever in this reviewers opinion has go to be disc 3 which features the entire 1925 silent version with a new score by Sir Carl Davis.
What more could you ask for? Superb,worth every penny.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By riaryan
At long last, one of the greatest movies ever made, finally gets released as a collectors edition DVD. And what a collection it is!! The movie, the original 1925 version, and special features including commentaries, 3 documentaries, trailers and speeches from the oscars all crammed onto 4 discs.
What can be said, that hasn't already been said about this epic?? Faultless performances from the likes of Hugh Griffiths, Glengormley born actor Stephen Boyd (Messala), and the excellent Charlton Heston in the lead role. Brilliant music score and breath-taking action (to name but a few!) It's the sort of film that shouldn't just be viewed on a Good Friday afternoon!
The real gem in this collection has to be the restored 1925 original silent version. It's amazing to watch this and to compare it to its more famous remake. The 1925 version seems to focus more on the "tale of the Christ." Scenes such as the nativity and the last supper are particularly memorable with it's beautiful use of colour. It's also quite a shocking film (for it's time) with images of semi nudity and quite grotesque scenes of violence (bodies and heads impaled on spikes and swords). But don't let that put you off. Despite its flaws, even the chariot race is as spectacular to watch. Carl Davis' musical score is superb, and also quite Wagnerian in style. (Any of you musical buffs might recognise the clever use of the 'Dresden Amen' used to symbolise Jesus).
This is a must buy! It deserved it's 11 oscars, and it deserves to be viewed over and over again. Even if, like me, you already have it on video, and the first DVD that was released. I'm still delighted that it has finally come out in a special edition.
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Discussion Replies Latest Post
Book (Killing Jesus) shows Christ existed 0 29 Jun 2014
Christ really existed --so did Pontius Pilate 0 29 Jun 2014
Problems with this blu-ray? 4 19 May 2013
incorrect packaging? 0 13 Jan 2013
Audio and Subtitles - confirmed 3 7 Oct 2012
Ben-Hur on Blu-Ray 1 9 Apr 2012
languages 3 14 Oct 2011
Specs on the Blu-ray edition? 2 27 Sep 2011
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