BEN-HUR. (1959) DIRECTED BY WILLIAM WYLER. PRODUCED BY SAM ZIMBALIST. BASED ON THE 1880 NOVEL BY GENERAL LEW WALLACE: BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. NARRATED BY FINLAY CURRIE.
STARRING CHARLTON HESTON, JACK HAWKINS, STEPHEN BOYD, HUGH GRIFFITH, MARTHA SCOTT, CATHY O'DONNELL, HAYA HARAREET AND CLAUDE HEATER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
'Your eyes are filled with hate, 41.'
Isn't this just the Biblical epic to end all Biblical epics? It's perfect Easter Week viewing, which is why I made my kids sit down with me on Good Friday evening (last night) and watch it with me, all three hours and thirty-four minutes of it. The DVD version I have of it actually has overture, intermission and entr'acte music on it too, which sadly we had to fast-forward or we'd still be sitting there, goggle-eyed...!
Okay, so we're back in Jerusalem in the time of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who only appears in the movie being filmed from the back or from a distance, to give him a bit of mystique. As if being the Son of God wasn't mystique enough to last a lifetime, haha.
Everyone wears unflattering but practical robes and head-dealies, gets around on camels and listening to a good long sermon delivered in the open air by Jeebus himself is their idea of a good (and presumably cheap) night out. Cheaper than Ed Sheeran tickets, anyway.
Charlton Heston, he of the surprisingly manly chest, plays Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy prince and merchant of Jerusalem who finds himself sentenced to three terrible years as a galley slave (rowing on a ship, in other words) when he falls afoul of his childhood friend Messala.
Messala has risen to the post of tribune and believes strongly in the power and glory of the mighty Roman Empire, which has conquered Jerusalem as well as half the known world. Judah is a Jew and proud of it, so you can see where the pair might clash...!
Unfortunately, Judah's mother and sister, Miriam and Tirzah, are condemned by Messala to a terrible fate right alongside their beloved Judah. Well, not exactly right alongside him. While Judah sweats it out in the galleys rowing in time to the beat of an ominous drum (battle speed, attack speed, ramming speed!), his mother and sister are left to rot in the Roman dungeons, a fate you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. No, not even the cow who tempted your bloke away with a flash of her tramp-stamp. Well, maybe her, the dirty hussy.
Any-hoo, a strange twist of fate sees Judah out of the galleys and adopted by the Roman consul Quintus Arrius, played by Jack Hawkins who brilliantly portrayed the God-botherer Otto Witt in another epic movie of the time, ZULU (1964).
Now the fiercely moral and resilient Judah is in a position to go and look for his mother and sister. When he discovers what has become of them, he swears a deadly revenge on Messala, his one-time friend. Messala will pay the highest price there is for his vile perfidy and his betrayal of the little family who once loved him as one of their own...
The nine-minute chariot race between Judah and Messala is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. It's been parodied plenty of times too, believe me. The film won a whopping eleven Oscars overall, a feat which was only equalled when James Cameron's TITANIC (1997) and Peter Jackson's magnificent THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) came along. BEN-HUR is such a memorable movie, with so many brilliant scenes to enjoy.
My daughter and I in particular always bawl our eyes out when Judah goes to the Valley of the Lepers to seek out a couple of peeps close to his heart. These are possibly some of the saddest scenes ever filmed, along of course with the crucifixion ones. The state of Jerusalem versus Jesus Christ and all that jazz. Maybe if he'd had Lionel Hutz from THE SIMPSONS as his attorney, he'd have beaten that rap. Well, maybe not, haha.
As well as winning all those Oscars and Golden Globes, BEN-HUR also broke all kinds of records for things like biggest sets ever created, most extras ever used (8,000), most costumes ever made/used, most camels hired and a load of other things like that.
It's truly an epic swords-and-sandals movie in the original Hollywood sense of the word and you could do worse than dig it out this Easter and have yourself a good long watch of it. They don't make Biblical epics any more in Hollywood, more's the pity. Maybe it's just as well. They'd only try to turn it into some throwaway buddy-comedy or lame-o roadtrip-movie anyway.
('He was crucified on Good Friday, but now he's BACK in the feel-good movie of the year! He's BACK FROM THE TOMB, and this time, he's brought someone with him! Watch LEPERZ, starring Seth Rogen as The Leper and John C. Reilly as Our Lord Jesus Christ and be prepared to pee your pants with laughter...! Music from Sia and Clean Bandit feat. Zara Larsson.)
Okay, so I'm going to Hell. Big deal. Tell me something I don't already know...!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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