The numbers speak volumes: 100,000 costumes, 8,000 extras, 300 sets and a staggering budget in its day the largest in movie history. Ben-Hur's creators made it the best, the greatest Biblical-era epic ever. Charlton Heston... more » brings a muscular physical and moral presence to the role of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman in Palestine whose heroic odyssey includes enslavement by the Romans, a bold escape from an embattled slave galley, vengeance against his tormentors during a furious arena chariot race and fateful encounters with Jesus Christ. Heston's charismatic performance brought him the Best Actor Oscar; the winner as 1959's Best Picture with the legendary William Wyler earning his third Best Director trophy, the film won a total 11 Academy Awards -- a tally unequaled until 1997's Titanic set sail.DVD Features:
Audio Commentary:Commentary by Film Historian T. Gene Hatcher with Scene Specific Comments from Charlton Heston
Documentaries:New Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema - Current filmmakers such as Ridley Scott and George Lucas reflect on the importance and influence of the film 1994 Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic Hosted by Christopher Plummer Directed by William Wyler - 1986 Emmy Award-nominated documentary featuring the last interview with Wyler before his death
Featurette:Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures - New audiovisual recreation of the film via stills, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue
Other:The 1925 Feature-length Silent Version of Ben-Hur with a stereophonic orchestral score by composer Carl Davis. Vintage Newsreels Gallery Highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards Ceremony Theatrical Trailer Gallery
Outtakes:Screen Tests: Leslie Nielsen and Cesare Danova Leslie Nielsen and Yale Wexler George Baker and William Russel Haya Harareet Hair and Make-up Tests« less
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 12/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
William Wyler's Oscar-winning BEN-HUR (1959), produced by Sam Zimbalist (who died of a heart attack near the end of filming) and based on a best-selling late 19th Century novel by Lew Wallace, is one hell of a movie experience. Watching a brand-new, pristine camera negative copy, I could not believe that the opening Nativity scene and the Resurrection finale were the same movie. There is just so much here. This remake of the 1925 silent epic, runs 3 hours and 45 minutes, including powerful roadshow bookend music by Miklos Rozsa. It takes its leisurely time in telling the story of a Jew (Charlton Heston) and a Roman (Stephen Boyd), raised as best friends, who become bitter enemies in the Holy Land of Jesus Christ's life. Director Wyler was always known as a painstaking perfectionist who would exhaust cast and crew by doing take after take after take of every scene. But the result for the audience is enthralling.
Wyler had never made a Biblical epic before and wanted to work in every genre; his BEN-HUR is the one with a literate brain. It is hard to believe it had major writing problems, multiple writers, and scenes written the night before they would be filmed. It flows beautifully and is continually engrossing, despite its near four hour length. The cast is impeccable, including Martha Scott, Cathy O'Donnell, Jack Hawkins, lovely Haya Harareet, and Oscar winner Hugh Griffith.
If you are looking for the sea battle (directed by Andrew Marton), it is about 70 minutes into part one. If you are seeking out the greatest chariot race in movie history (choreographed and directed by Yakima Canutt), it is about ten minutes after the intermission. The Christ scenes are handled with taste and subtlety; we see only his back or his hand and never hear his voice. In fact, non-Christians might have a difficult time understanding what is going on in those scenes with Jesus, including an impressive Sermon on the Mount near the movie's end. The art direction and costumes are absolutely gorgeous, and Robert Surtees' use of ultra wide-screen Camera 65 is masterful. Most of all, Miklos Rozsa contributes the music score of a lifetime. Everyone won Oscars for their distinguished work. No wonder this BEN-HUR won eleven Oscars the same year as SOME LIKE IT HOT, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and ANATOMY OF A MURDER. It is a masterpiece. The audio commentary, by scholar and author Gene Hatcher and Mr. Heston, is thoughtful and insightful.
The 1925 silent version, starring Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur and Francis X. Bushman as Messala, is on disk three of the new and magnificent four disk set. In some ways it is even more impressive than the remake. Novarro and Bushman give performances of a lifetime, the 143 minute length is a good 75 minutes shorter than the 1959 version, the color tinting is very beautiful, the sea battle and chariot race are sensationally good by any standards, and the silent version has far more Jesus Christ scenes and in two-color Technicolor. Carl Davis' orchestra score is outstanding, as always.
The disk four bonuses include two major documentaries, one for the 1994 tape version and one brand-new for this 2005 DVD restoration. We also get "BEN-HUR: A JOURNEY THROUGH PICTURES", several 1959 movie theatrical trailers, and a gallery of vintage newsreels heralding the arrival and covering the premiere of the lavish remake in 1959. This $40 DVD set is a work of art and deserves a place in every library, even if it takes you a while to see all four disks of material. Amazon.com has it for $30, not much more than the cost of a family of four going out to a new movie at night. With both the 1925 and 1959 versions included in flawless prints, this DVD set gets my highest recommendation.
Ben Hur----- DVD Bliss***********
G. Stanford | Mesquite,TX USA | 03/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film when it was released in 1959 saw it's studio MGM teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and the fact that this film cost in 1958 close to $15 Million dollars was most assuredly a make or break film for the studio.William Wyler the film's director, in order to make this film unique as if a running time close to four hours was not enough, filmed it in an aspect ratio of 2.76:1 using what was called MGM Camera 65, an Ultra Panavision process.This film was one of only two films that were filmed in that process which is the widest of processes used in film to date.Filmed utilizing 8000 extras, 300 sets, and over 100,000 costume changes this film epitomizes the word grand and released a few years after the Ten Commandments, it helped quench the public thirst for Biblical films.This new DVD release is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the LFE channel(Low Frequency Effects) is apparent on two standout scenes, the Sea Battle scene, and the now infamous chariot scene which last close to 11 minutes.There are quite a few special features on this DVD release most of which appear on side two of this disc including a documentary, Ben Hur: The Making Of An Epic, which is just under an hour long.There was an open casting call for the lead role in this film and they have included on this DVD the original screen tests by Leslie Nielsen, and Cesare Danova which are interesting to see even though the quality of the audio and video are not up to the level of the film itself.Also included are storyboard art and posters as well as film biographies of the cast with pictures of them in character from the film.Overall this film is an incredible piece of work and presented in it's original aspect ratio with the enhanced sound combines to make an experience that should not be missed.This film on the small screen does lose a little bit of it's lustre especially if your television is under 27 inches in size but this film begs to be seen in it's broad presentation, so even if you would normally shy away from widescreen presentations, this is the only way to view this film in my honest opinion.On a rating scale of Bronze to Platinum...This film receives my highest rating.....Platinum!!!! Run don't walk to pick this DVD up!!!"
Surpasses all others in the ?Biblical Epic? genre
lawrence_vs | Herndon, VA | 03/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've read that director William Wyler wanted to humanize the unwieldy scale of earlier Biblical films. He succeeded. The chariot race may be the hallmark of the movie, but it is the small, human elements that carry the story. Judah Ben-Hur's love for the slave, Esther; his devotion to mother and sister and his transformation from the vengeful slayer of Messalla to follower of Jesus on the road to crucifixion is a character saga of mythic proportions.Ben-Hur abounds with stirring dialog and memorable imagery and establishes female characters in strong, defining roles. Mother and daughter endure degradation, imprisonment and disease, living only for the sake of each other and the faint hope that Judah is alive. The love between Esther and Judah is a study of restrained passion. The scenes where Heston and Haya Harareet are together work well, proving the axiom that good actors generate their own chemistry; (and, for Heston, it probably didn't hurt that Harareet was a stunning beauty.) A warning to cultural nihilists: religious themes abound! This is, after all, a Biblical Epic. Nativity and Crucifixion scenes may remind you of those "Illustrated Bible" editions you might have seen in Sunday School. But, in the hands of director Wyler, they are splendidly and lovingly rendered. The Jewishness of early Christianity is never questioned; Esther refers to Jesus as "...a young Rabbi," a pacifist and healer who ultimately takes the sword from the hand of Ben-Hur. Overshadowing all is the heavy fist of Imperial Rome, its tyrannical rule driving the people to be, in the words of the departing Tribune, "obsessed with religion." As with all great movies it's the secondary players who invite repeated viewings. Two lesser known examples: Frank Thring, as Pontius Pilate, in a speech rich with insinuations of realpolitik, cautions Judah against crossing the will of Rome, ("There are many small men of envy and ambition..."). And Wyler's decision to cast veteran actor George Relph as Tiberius was a stroke of genius. In contrast to the majesty of his surroundings, the Divine Emperor looks rumpled and flea-bitten; more like a neglected grandfather than the power behind the Empire.Some of the SFX may be dated, but, in all the ways that count, Wyler's rendering of the Ben-Hur tale has improved with time."
Ben Hur (Four-Disc Collector's Edition) Worth the Price of A
Ziek | Ottawa, Canada | 01/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who already own a DVD of Ben Hur and have been scouring the net, as I have, to see if the new Ben-Hur (Four-Disc Collector's Edition) (1959) is worth the investment, the unequivocal answer is YES!
I first saw Ben Hur at the movies when I was about 10 years old (yes... now you know I'm closer to Attends then Pampers) and revisited it several years after, in the VHS decades and again in the early and late DVD period (yes I do like the movie).
This newly re-mastered version in anamorphic widescreen is absolutely incredible to view (they had to have spent a fortune re-doing this one) as well as listen to, with the addition of enhanced (not overdone) 5.1 surround sound (from six track stereo --- back in 1959).
Enough has been said about how great the story and movie is, and I couldn't agree more, even though I don't have any particular bent for biblical epics. This movie is a classic, in the true sense of the word, and it takes on a new dimension with this particular DVD release.
In reading reviews it is often helpful, I think, to get a sense of the author's realm of experience and what other movies or types of DVD's he or she likes, just to see if there is a correlation of tastes, and so, I offer some of my favorites, in no particular order or type, Saving Private Ryan, Titanic, Eagles (Hell Freezes Over), Sting (the Brand New Day Tour), Inherit the Wind NOT Gone with the Wind (Spencer Tracy and the Scopes monkey trial), Gladiator, Master and Commander, Amadeus, War of the Worlds the Cruise vs...etc.
John C., Guntzelman | Cincinnati, OH | 08/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 4-disc set is loaded with extras including the 1925 silent version, but the real bonus is the flawless new transfer of what is definitely one of the best motion pictures ever made. By going back to original 65mm materials, the picture quality is simply stunning revealing color depth and a contrast range never before seen in any of the previous tape, laser disc or DVD versions. The subtlety and mastery that earned Robert Surtees ASC the academy award for best cinematography is clearly revealed in every frame of this bench mark film. If you ever have the opportunity of seeing a 70mm print of this film on a huge screen; jump at the chance! Until then, this new DVD version is a terrific alternative. There are movies and there are motion pictures; William Wyler's production of Ben-Hur defines the term "motion picture.""