Erstwhile childhood friends, Judah Ben-Hur and Messala meet again as adults, this time with Roman officer Messala as conqueror and Judah as a wealthy, though conquered, Israelite. A slip of a brick during a Roman parade causes Judah to be sent off as a galley slave, his property confiscated and his mother and sister imprisoned. Years later, as a result of his determination to stay alive and his willingness to aid his Roman master, Judah returns to his homeland an exalted and wealthy Roman athlete. Unable to find his mother and sister, and believing them dead, he can think of nothing else than revenge against Messala.Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
Camera visible during the chariot race. See more »
I will ride you down - - wrench off your wheels - trample you into the sand! You shall race - to your death!
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Nudity was often censored from the film. Shots of topless flower girls and the nude prisoner in the slave galley were deleted from a majority of prints that were in circulation before restoration of the picture began. See more »
With the record number of Oscars won by the William Wyler 1959 version of BEN-HUR, there is a tendency to overlook the monumental 1925 production, which established MGM as a studio to be reckoned with. Well, if you've never seen the earlier version, you may be in for a surprise...it is superior in nearly every way!
Certainly, some of the performances (particularly Francis X. Bushman's scenery-chewing Messala) are cartoonish, the film lacks the widescreen splendor and scope of it's successor, and the 'Wyler Touch', the infinite care the legendary director poured over every detail, is sorely missed. But there is an energy and sense of intimacy in Fred Niblo's version that is sorely lacking in the later version; the film, as a whole, is far closer in spirit to General Lew Wallace's novel; and young leading man Ramon Novarro (with a sexy intensity reminiscent of Tyrone Power), makes a far more charismatic and sympathetic Ben-Hur than Charlton Heston.
The 1959 version is remembered today almost exclusively for the chariot race, one of the most spectacular action sequences ever filmed. But what of the other 'set piece', the gigantic sea battle between the Roman and pirate fleets? The scene is completely artificial, obviously comprised of models and rear projections (watch the toy seamen jiggle as ships collide!) The 1925 version's chariot race is equally as exciting, and the sea battle used full-sized ships and hundreds of extras (shot in Italy, where a fire broke out on the ships during the shooting...the extras' panic on screen was NOT acting!)
With two-strip Technicolor to emphasize key scenes (the Nativity, the new Roman Consul's arrival in Jerusalem...yes, those ARE topless women leading the procession!), and a wonderful, stirring new musical score by Carl Davis, Fred Niblo's BEN-HUR is a treasure, a film you'll want to see again and again...Can you honestly say THAT about the '59 version?
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