Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Lee of My Mind Reels Through Film. Thanks for joining in, Lee! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Ben-Hur, IMDB rank 169 out of 250…
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.
**Warning: Some Spoilers
When the word Epic was created the person who created it must have seen into the future and seen this film because Ben Hur is a true epic. It still boasts the most Oscar statues for a film, which considering the film is now over 50 years old, is no mean feat. It is even more amazing considering there was no such thing as CGI back then so everything you see is real. To make a great film you have to have a great story and Ben Hur was taken from a Novel By Lew Wallace depicting the following of Christ. Along with a great story you need a great director who has the vision to put that story on film and in this case on a colossal scale. William Wyler was that man and his career is full of majestic film making from films like The Big Country, Mrs Miniver, Wuthering Heights, Roman Holiday and the ground breaking Children’s Hour. Then the selling point, bring in a big star at the peak of his power in Charlton Heston with Support from Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins. The sets were pretty amazing in the original 1925 version, but the 1959 version blew those sets away. The action in the arena brings Rome to life in the fastest and most brutal way as one man is destroyed by his own bitterness.
There are so many facets to this film which keep you hooked from start to finish despite it’s length. There is a tale of a man’s faith, friendship, greed, revenge, death, resilience, sport, family and it is a test of a man’s courage and willingness to stay alive and rise up again before being brought back down by the lies that were fed to him by the enemy. There is a reason why this film is called Ben Hur because it is all about Ben Hur, one man’s life from wealth to slavery back to wealth again and how his faith gave him comfort and a belief that the evils of this world could be corrected. The main plot is fairly simple and it follows Ben Hur from a point where he is a powerful man with powerful friends, one in particular, a Roman called Messala, who believes that Romans are the superior race and anyone who dares to think otherwise should be stamped upon. Ben Hur cannot agree with his friend and their relationship becomes sour. A freak accident brings the Hur family down in the most dramatic way as he becomes a slave behind the oar of a powerful Roman boat. He feels the cold chains around his arms and ankles where gold once hung. His strength of character and his kindness, even to those that have done him wrong brings him back up to the man he once was.
He becomes a champion in the arena due to his understanding of horses and is heralded as the man to take on the Romans and win. Despite his rise he never forgets the people he once so proudly defended against the Romans, nor does he forget his family despite the many lies that are fed to him about their existence. The once great friend has never forgot Ben Hur and his aim is to bring him back down, but this time in the arena. This is when he reveals the truth, which is his final revenge on the man he once thought of as a brother. The chariot scenes are a masterpiece, full of excitement, speed, blood and sweat and give you a real insight into the brutality of Roman life. They will leave you absolutely breathless and your brain will be spinning in attempt to figure out how they created it. In the backdrop of the film there is also the story of Jesus and how his kindness brought about a great following in a time when so many were being badly treated. He looks at how he came into Ben Hur’s life, leading him to believe in the son of god. The film shows how Jesus’ death has a profound affect on him. You do not have to be religious to enjoy the film and you have to remember that this is based on a novel and not the historical texts of the Bible.
Charlton Heston deservedly pick up the best actor for his performance. He was able to portray the ups and downs, the many emotions and physically cope with role that was set before him, Stephen Boyd makes a perfect villain without making the performance too hammy and you really hate him by the end. Jack Hawkins shows that not all Romans were figure of hate and cruelty in his elegant performance. Haya Harareet stands out amongst the female starts as Esther the one so devoted to Ben Hur and his family that she was willing to lie to protect them all. Martha Scott plays Ben Hur’s mother who suffers along with his sister in the depths of the Roman dungeons. There is also a touch of comedy brought in by Hugh Griffith who I must say is a champion Burper (you’ll understand when you see the film and you must see this film), This film is in my top ten favourite films and is an example of why I started watching films in the first place.
This is a beautiful film, with amazing sets and some of the greatest performances seen on the big screen. There is action. Love, violence, sport, human endeavour and a tale of riches to rags and then back to riches again. There is also the involvement of religion and the story of Jesus Christ to add amazing depth to the storyline. There are very few films which can compete with the grand scale of this film and for this reason it is still hailed amongst the very best despite the film being made almost 50 years ago. This film will introduce you to the golden age and open your eyes to a period when films were at their greatest.