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Ben-Hur - 3-Disc Edition [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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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 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.
Disc One & Two: The Movie
• Newly remastered and restored from original 65mm film elements
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio
• Commentary by film historian T. Gene Hatcher with scene specific comments from Charlton Heston
• Music-only track showcasing Miklos Rozsa's score
Disc Three: Special Features
• Charlton Heston: A Personal Journey (78 min) [HD]
• Ben-Hur: 1925 silent version, from the Thames Television restoration with stereophonic orchestral score by composer Carl Davis (143 min)
• 2005 Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema--Current filmmakers such as Ridley Scott reflect on the importance and influence of the film on modern epics (58 min)
• 1994 Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic, hosted by Christopher Plummer (58 min)
• Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures--Audiovisual recreation of the film via stills, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue
• Screen tests (30 min)
• Vintage newsreels gallery
• Highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards ® ceremony
• Theatrical trailer gallery
NOTE: This product does not come with a slip case. It includes 3 discs only.
The biggest (and arguably the best) from Hollywood's Golden Age of Epic, Ben-Hur cost a staggering 15 million dollars in 1959 and was one of the largest film productions ever undertaken: the Circus Maximus set alone, constructed for the climactic chariot race, covered 18 acres and was filled with 40,000 tons of Mediterranean sand. Fittingly the movie scooped an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards that year, an achievement only equalled three decades later by Titanic, another bloated, wildly costly epic, albeit one with a distinctly less literate script (Gore Vidal provided uncredited script-doctoring for Ben-Hur). Director William Wyler, who had been an 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 racing scene to second-unit director and experienced stuntman Yakima Canutt). Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur dominates an appropriately vast ensemble cast, while Miklos Rozsa's majestic musical score adds immeasurably to the sense of occasion. The Christian theme, the very crux of Lew Wallace's original novel, is handled sensitively, focusing on the central character's love and compassion for his family (evoked by the discovery of their leprosy), and heavy-handed sermonising is thankfully avoided (the figure of Christ is seen but never heard--his presence signalled by a serene musical motif instead).
On the debit side, at four hours it's a long haul especially given some of the portentous dialogue--"You can break a man's skull. You can arrest him. You can throw him into a dungeon. But how do you fight an idea?"--but worst of all is having to watch it on a tiny TV screen (and any TV screen is too tiny for this movie). The movie's theatrical aspect ratio is 2.76:1, so the widescreen version plays out in a little horizontal band framed by two huge black borders; while the pan & scan version sacrifices great swathes of the original frame, making this vast epic look like a tame TV mini-series. All in all, a great movie but one best seen on the biggest screen possible. --Mark Walker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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'.Read more ›
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.
The film that has become a by-word for the genre and the biggest of the roadshow movies of the fifties and sixties, 1959's Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ is from an audience point-of-view still a great movie, and considerably more intelligent than many modern critics would like to believe.
The best of the redemption epics of the Fifties, where suffering in the likes of The Robe or Quo Vadis makes their protagonists better in the creepily smug way that passes for movie righteousness, it turns its hero, Judah Ben-Hur, into a right s**t. Corrupted by revenge, he rejects Christ and turns away from passive resistance. Mistaken for Christ, he is himself betrayed by a friend and returns from his certain death (in this case the galleys) "like a returning faith," in the words of one of his faithful servants, but he has no faith himself. Having initially rejected Messala's overtures to "look to the west, look to Rome", indirectly the cause of his misfortunes, he becomes Romanised and a mirror image of his betrayer. The character exists in a constant state of flux and torment, journeying from slave-owning Jew to Roman slave to Roman citizen to symbol of resistance, never regaining his peace until the finale. It doen't hurt that Gore Vidal and Christopher Fry's uncredited but much publicised rewrite of Karl Tunberg's script gives the journey some fine dialogue, strong characterisation and real dramatic meat to work with.Read more ›
When I ordered this Blu-Ray set from Amazon.co.uk 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 presented...finally....in 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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
First saw Ben-Hur at the Plaza cinema when I was 11 or maybe 12 (I'm 68 now) and loved it since!Published 11 days ago by C.Thomas
I was reminded of how good this classic was when it was on TV over here in Greece during April. The trouble is, we couldn't get into it because of the 20 minute breaks every half... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mr. A Weston