Ben-Hur is a 1959 epic film directed by William Wyler, the third film version of Civil War vet Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It premiered at Loew's State Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1959. The movie's reputation as a classic is primarily based on two spectacular action sequences: the great chariot race and a Roman naval battle, along with lavish production values and strong performances. The plot of Ben Hur revolves around a Jewish prince who is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend and how he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge. However, instead he finds redemption in Christ, the theme is ultimately about being saved in the Christian sense. The film went on to win a record of eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Charlton Heston as Ben Hur). This record-setting Oscars sweep has since been equaled by Titanic in 1998 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004, but never broken.
|Release Date||:||December 26, 1959|
|Genres||:||Adventure, Drama, Action, History|
|Production Company||:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)|
|Production Countries||:||United States of America|
|Director||:||William Wyler, Alberto Cardone|
|Writers||:||Lew Wallace, Karl Tunberg, Gore Vidal, Harold Michelson|
|Casts||:||Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O'Donnell, Frank Thring, Sam Jaffe, Ady Berber, Finlay Currie, André Morell, Terence Longdon, Lando Buzzanca, Giuliano Gemma, Marina Berti, Robert Brown, Liana Del Balzo, Enzo Fiermonte, Richard Hale, Duncan Lamont, John Le Mesurier, Ferdy Mayne, May McAvoy, Aldo Silvani, Ralph Truman, George Relph, Joe Canutt, Richard Coleman, Antonio Corevi, David Davies, Mino Doro, Michael Dugan, Franco Fantasia, José Greci, John Horsley, Howard Lang, Stevenson Lang, Tutte Lemkow, Cliff Lyons, Tiberio Mitri, Remington Olmsted, Laurence Payne, Aldo Pini, Diego Pozzetto, Stella Rho, Edwin Richfield, Hector Ross, Maxwell Shaw, Gianni Solaro, Pietro Tordi, Raimondo Van Riel, Dervis Ward, Joe Yrigoyen, Nazzareno Zamperla, Jerry Brown, Eddie Jauregui|
|Plot Keywords||:||roman, prince, jerusalem, governor, politics, epic, friends, revenge, jewish, galley, galley slave|
When I first saw 'Ben Hur' I was 8 years old and hadn't seen many films, since we were hardly ever allowed to watch television. Imagine what an impact this film had on me (my movie diet had so far consisted of Chaplin and Disney films which, of course, is not at all a bad thing). The experience was simply mesmerizing. Awe and wonder filled me as I watched this story of shocking betrayal, revenge and forgiveness unfold on screen and by the time the heart-stopping chariot race was over, my fate as a future movie addict was sealed.
Despite its 212 minutes running time, this is storytelling at its finest that knows how to entertain; as we follow Judah Ben-Hur's dramatic journey from Jerusalem to Rome and back again, the film just never lets up and immerses you completely. It's hard to imagine anything more cinematic, especially at the time: if ever there was an epic that was meant to be seen on the big screen in all its bombastic glory, it's Ben Hur. And even now, after I've seen the film many, many times, I feel like this story has a certain sense of greatness to it that is touching (and I don't mean that in a religious sense).
My verdict: this film was and is nothing like the many "sandal and sword" or bible films of that era; it is (at least to me) the ultimate film epic. With its touching story and fantastic action sequences - which I think hold up amazingly well - Ben Hur is among the milestones of its era and part of film history. Pure cinema and a must see 10 stars out of 10.