Sunday, January 29, 2006

[DVD] Ben-Hur (1959)

There are tons of material out there on Ben-Hur, so I shall keep mine short. There's only one reason I watched this, and that is to watch it in its entirety. Shown on TV countless times, I don't have the patience to watch it with advertisements, so all this while I survived on bits and pieces of the film.

Ben-Hur, like all classics, have a single sequence to define it in cinematic history. The much talked about chariot race, still holds till this day, a spectacle to behold, and which Star Wars Episode 1 emulated in its equivalent called the pod-race. It has also won an unprecedented (until recently tied) 11 Academy awards in its time too.

Also subtitled as a Tale of the Christ, the story of Jesus bookends this long movie, with the birth at the manger in Bethlehem, to his crucifixion in Jerusalem. In between, there are moments in which Judah Ben-Hur meets Jesus, though we never see the face of the Christ. There are other biblical characters mentioned / seen too, like Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist, and Jesus' parents Joseph and Mary.

Charlton Heston plays the title character Judah Ben Hur, an Jew aristocrat in Rome conquered Judea, whose childhood best friend, a Roman called Messala, is now second in command to the Roman governor. Unwilling to become an informer to Messala to name Jews involved in upcoming rebellions, Messala has Judah banished to slavery and his family imprisoned.

Swearing revenge, we see how Judah overcome various odds, and incredible luck which sees him through his slavery, his rescue of a Roman general, becoming his adopted son, and returning to Judea to exact vengeance on Messala, hence the grand chariot race.

Though I must admit it does get a little draggy, and the dialogue a bit stilted and colourful, but there are enough moments in this plot to keep you riveted in your seat. So if you're game for some serious good old styled story-telling, watch this classic.

This Code 1 DVD contains a full length audio commentary by Charlton Heston, and a behind the scenes documentary called Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic.

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