Timeless ‘Ben Hur’ now on DVD set
2005. The three-hour-plus multiple Oscar-winning movie Ben Hur on two discs plus the 1925 silent version and a diskette of bonus material, is on sale in New Zealand – a must-have for fans of that timeless movie.
Ben Hur: Four-Disc Collectors’ Edition DVD, is digitally remastered from the 1959 Camera 65mm widescreen version, and includes an optional commentary from film historian T. Gene Hatcher.
Ben Hur, subtitled “A Tale of the Christ”, was conceived by a novel during the late 1800s by General Lew Wallace, described in the presentation as an American Civil War hero.
The interesting background of the man and the origins of the story from novel to theatre to cinema are outlined in the 1994 documentary Ben Hur: The Making of an Epic, which is part of the Collector’s Edition featured material.
The documentary has interviews with writers, film historians, filmmakers and figures involved with the Ben Hur background, including Charlton Heston’s son, Fraser.
The Epic that Changed Cinema, a filmmaker’s homage to Ben Hur, heaps praise on the technical accomplishments and storyline, which becomes repetitive but there are some noteworthy moments, particularly the historical development of film technique.
One of the documentaries notes that the 1925 silent version is more religiously intent than the latter film.
The discs are rated PG containing low-level violence (chariot racing and fighting on the sea between Romans and pirates, no blood) and the silent movie has two shots of pre-1934 Hays Code female and male nudity, very brief and from a distance.
The silent movie is restored with tinting and Technicolor deceivingly appearing undamaged through time because of modern digital enhancement.
Some of the features are disappointing, such as the highlights of the 1990 Academy Awards, because of uneven sound quality, and the vintage newsreels, because of brevity, but still capture the era nostalgically.
For the Ben Hur aficionado, who should love its capsules of information, entertainment, and excellent pictorial and dolby digital sound quality, The Collector’s Edition DVD is a dream come true.
By Peter Veugelaers
Published 2005, Challenge Weekly.