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I own over 2,000 movies on DVD or VHS. I have gone to many many more movies that have not been worthy of my collection, thus my exposure to film has been extensive. I mention this because through every film I have seen; I still come back to a film from 1959 as the greatest achievement in cinematic history. I have seen great films like: Return of the King, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart and many more. While the modern films are wonderful and have a fantastic richness to them, they still are a "small" notch below Ben-Hur. Today's films use a lot of computer effects for their battles scenes, their backgrounds, and even computer images for the stunts of their actors. Yet, Ben-Hur did it all without computers. I am still fascinated by the chariot race. Never, in film history, has anything matched the depth and excitement of the chariot race. Remember folks, this is 1959, nothing is computer generated. Some may say the naval battle scenes look a bit cheesy, but again it was 1959 and the scenes still work today. What can you say about the acting? Every single actor is wonderful. Heston is in top form as Ben-Hur. Steven Boyd is incredible playing the merciless Messala. Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Martha Scott--all fantastic in their roles. Each performing the role of a life time. The actors are fantastic, but William Wyler brings more out of each actor than any director ever could in this day and age. Wyler had no computer animation to rely on, he had no high tech special effects crew, he had no computer program to fill in extras. Wyler had to find thousands of extras for many scenes and maintain control. Did you ever see Steven Boyd better? Probably not. Did you ever see any of the actors (except Heston, who is an acting marvel) better in any other role? Wyler just pulled the greatest performance out of each actor. The story: fantastic from beginning to end. While the film is over 3 hours long, you do not feel that it is that long. Every scene is lovingly crafted: the reunion between Messala and Judah, the trek to the gallows, the rowing scene, the naval battle, the chariot race, the Messala death scene, the reunion with Judah and his family, etc. After seeing thousands and thousands of movies, I always come back to Ben-Hur. This is the mark of fantastic movie making. Today's film makers could learn a lot by watching this film and "learning" about acting, directing, and screen writing.
Wow, what can you say about a film that won 11 Academy Awards back in
the days where the best films actually were honored, not the garbage
they salute today.
In other words, this film lives up to its reputation and has to be ranked as one of the most memorable movies of all time. Nobody who ever saw this film ever forgot the chariot race, for instance, perhaps the greatest action scene filmed without special effects.
This can be a very sad film as well. I doubt if I've ever watched this without a few tears in my eyes at certain points. The scenes with hero's mother and sister suffering with leprosy are still some of the most heart-wrenching scenes I've ever witnessed on film. They can just tear you apart.
The combination of drama, action and romance, along with very involving storyline is aided by an incredible soundtrack, once again one of the best ever put on film. The more one hears this music, the more was is moved by it.
To fully appreciate the cinematography in this film I recommend you purchase the recently-released 4-disc DVD special edition which also includes the first rendition of this story, the silent movie "Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ." That was name of the book, by the way, the second part of the title being left off the 1959 movie as Hollywood slowly began deemphasizing Christianity in films. However, there is a reverence for Jesus Christ in this film, which should be there since it's a key element of the storyline, even though most folks forget that.
In summary, this is about as good an example as ever found of what is labeled an "epic" movie. It's an incredible story transferred memorably on screen.
"Ben-Hur" is a dominant Best Picture Oscar winner that is perhaps more impressive now than it was when it was first released in 1959. Charlton Heston (Oscar-winning) stars as a rich Jewish nobleman during the time of Jesus Christ who is turned into a slave by the Romans after a freak accident. Now he is manning an oar in a ship's galley and his family is imprisoned. Years pass and now Heston is after the former childhood friend (Stephen Boyd), a Roman, that turned against him. The 17 minutes of footage for the chariot race is some of the best during the history of the cinema. Hugh Griffith won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and William Wyler won his third and final Best Director Oscar. A monumental film that is great in every cinematic category known to man. 5 stars out of 5.
Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ, was hugely popular as a novel, a play and two movies. It was written in a less vulgar time about a very spiritual event. Seen today by moviegoers addicted to constant action and low frequency effects, it will seem ponderous, slow and pretentious. Well, it is a little. You have to pay attention to the dialogue or you won't get it at all. Some of the intimate scenes aren't all that great. Anyone that really pays attention can tell the sea battle is done with miniatures. It's still worth watching. As everyone ought to know by now, the chariot race is one-of-a-kind; nothing else comes close to that real live race where the main actors actually raced most of the time. I just watched this movie after lapse of about 10 years. I still enjoyed it. The sea battle is still fun even if you know the boats are about as big as a man. The few moments which have Christ on the screen are still moving. Just about all of the acting is good with only a few forgettable moments. Just be ready to spend about 4 hours in front of the screen listening to occasionally flowery dialog.
The same quality that made epics like "Gone with the
Wind," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Doctor Zhivago," and,
ultimately, "Titanic" the memorable stories they were is
present in spades in "Ben-Hur." These are stories, though
told on canvases far vaster than the CinemaScope- or
Panavision-sized movie screens they were meant for,
succeed because, in their best moments, they focus on the
interaction between and history of as few as two
What begins as a childhood friendship between a Roman boy and a Jewish boy in Roman-occupied Palestine, becomes, briefly, a politically-charged rivalry, and ultimately, a search for revenge by one upon the other.
Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd deliver the performances of their careers, and get to chew up scenery and sets of such grandeur that Hollywood could never afford their like again.
This film, the greatest epic film ever made, deserves every accolade heaped upon it. The modern viewer may have to apply some patience, but at the end of the nearly four hour running time will find themselves to be vastly rewarded for it. You will find your life changed by both the scale of the film and the intimate message of friendship, betrayal, revenge--and the power of forgiveness.
I have seen Ben-Hur (I also like the 1925 version very much) I don't know how many times now. I think I have stopped counting seven years ago. I never tire to see this movie and, needless to say, I know all the scenes and dialogue by heart. This picture has everything in it. Almost all human sentiments are represented in the story: joy, sorrow, despair, pride, jealousy, hope, revenge, anger, forgiveness, compassion, redemption, love, hate, friendship, humour, etc, etc. During the three and a half hours it takes for the story to unfold, we see passing by our very eyes just about every example of what constitutes the human condition. What I find even more remarkable in this movie is the fact that Christ is present throughout the entire story, but we don't really see him in the flesh (at the exception of a few scenes, where the Lord is, in fact, in the background) and yet, his spirit and message is ever present through the words and actions of the various characters. It's not for nothing that the complete title of this great story is "Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ". The movie is well-acted (especially Heston, Griffith, Hawkins and, let's not forget, the wonderful Finley Currie, playing Balthazar), the dialogue is always concise, yet never short of meaning and substance (the way dialogues in movies should be), the decor and settings are just magnificent and the Miklos Rozsa score is simply superb. Besides Quo Vadis (the 1951 version, which, incidentally, I have recommended to those who have also enjoyed Ben-Hur), I cannot think of a better movie about the early days of Christianity than this one. There are others, of course, (The Robe, just to name one), but none has the grandeur and the spectacular dimension of Ben-Hur. It's the movie I would want to watch one last time on my death bed. I gladly and proudly give Ben-Hur a score of 10 out of 10!
I think I can safely say that in my opinion, this is the best movie ever made. Its dramatic value is fantastic, and I've never seen a better storyline. The costumes were also incredible. The actors portrayed the best purest form of both ancient Roman and old Judean culture. This film also had quite an emotional effect. The way that Christ's face is never visible nor his voice audible to the audience creates a feeling of reverence to the actual person of Jesus. Lew Wallace also did an amazing job portraying the innocence, kindness, and mercy of Jesus, and his effect on the main character, Judah Ben Hur. Hur's ending quote, "I felt him take the sword out of my hand" was a wonderful picture of his changing. I admit, I am a Christian, but even for those who are not this is still a great film. The message boards confirm that. I recognize that there are some people that require constant action to keep their attention. If this is your case, than this movie is not for you, as it has a lot of dialogue. But I recommend this movie 100%.
What can you say about this film? It has everything, magnificent script,
superb acting ,and the most famous chariot race in Hollywood history.
Although the chariot race is the centrepiece of this spectacular ,it is by
no means the only highlight.Ben Hur (Charlton Heston) is the victim of a
terrible miscarriage of justice on himself and family ,and his dramatic
adventures in the desert, at sea and finally back in Rome are just brimming
with highlights. At the same time his meetings with Christ just add to the
Wonderful drama that enfolds in this movie.It has a magnificent musical
score which just adds to the drama,and I suspect the climax of the film
would only leave the stone hearted unmoved.It has other great stars who make
this a must see film ,particularly Jack Hawkins,Hugh Griffith and Stephen
This is the sort of film Gladiator should have been but wasn't (what a waste). Still we'll always have Ben Hur to enjoy.
It's hard to deny that William Wyler's lavish version of "Ben-Hur" is
sometimes a bit overdone, but it nevertheless remains an entertaining
and worthwhile classic. The material does justify the big-budget
approach, since the story contains several interesting themes as well
as plenty of action sequences. While some parts could have been
stream-lined with little loss, in order to make the movie as a whole
flow more smoothly, in general the film as it is keeps a good balance
between action and substance. There are some very good dramatic moments
in addition to the action highlights.
Charlton Heston is well-cast as Ben-Hur, a role that plays right to his strengths. The strained relations between Ben-Hur and Messala provide one set of themes for the story, as well as driving much of the action. Heston handles his end of it pretty well, although Stephen Boyd could have been a little less static in his portrayal of Messala. Jack Hawkins works very well as Quintus Arrius, and his scenes with Heston are used well in establishing some of the inner workings of Heston's character. Hugh Griffith also has a couple of good scenes as Sheik Ilderim.
The chariot race and other action sequences usually get most of the attention, but there are also some worthwhile ideas in the story (which are really the focus of the original novel) that are developed well enough. There is also a very good silent movie version of "Ben-Hur" from 1925, which at times takes a different approach from this version, and which is well worth seeing in itself for those who like the story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With his distinctive visual style and a taste for solemn material,
William Wyler was meticulously individualistic director, triple winner
of the Best Picture Oscar... As a devoted artist, he showed visual
clarity and sensitive portrayal of character, dignifying melodrama,
epic and Westerns... His "Ben-Hur" is a semi-biblical adventure set in
the First Century AD, during the life of Christ...
In "Ben-Hur," Heston reaches the peak of his career winning an Oscar for his outstanding performance of Judah Ben-Hur...
Judah is a peaceful Jewish prince who stands the tyranny of Rome through the sadistic mind of Messala... Heston gives a spiritual performance of the title role... Judah is noble, aggressive, proud and warm... He is authentic, believing that his existence had a purpose, and that his God will free him to take revenge on his enemy... He is a man of terrific complexity and great courage and fortitude... From the land of Judea, to the galley of a Roman warship and to the Valley of the Lepers, Judah struggles for dignity and freedom... Judah's spirit is nearly broken until a hand reaches toward him with a ladle of water...
Judah/Messala friendship is great, but their relationship, damaged for ideological differences, makes them become bitter enemies... Messala (Stephen Boyd) sees only a Roman world in the future... Judah believes in the future of his people...
Tribune Messala had the same attributes, the same traits of Judah, but inverted upside down ideologically... Messala is an ambitious autocratic commander, and a despot ruler, who wants Judea a more obedient and disciplined province...
Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins) realizes much about Judah's character... After whipping his back, he told him: "You have the spirit to fight back but the good sense to control it. Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one. That's good. Hates keeps a man alive. It gives him strength." And that's why Judah can be called more a survival than a hero...
Sheik Ilderim (Hugh Griffith), is the wealthy Arabian horse trainer, who needed a real man to race his strong and magnificent Arabian team...
Haya Harareet is the Jewish maiden who tenderly falls in love with Judah...
Sam Jaffe is Simonides, Judah's loyal friend and keeper of the Hur fortune...
André Morell is Sextus, the pagan ruler whom Messala replaces...
With dramatic musical score, breathtaking sets and costumes, huge masses of people, a vigorous sea battle between Roman fleet and Macedonian pirates, a memorable and spectacular chariots race, this inspiring film is an unforgettable solid motion picture, more religious than "The Ten Commandments."
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