Ben-Hur (1959)

(On DVD, May 2003) I know, I know; this film won a bunch of Oscars, enthralled generations and made a god out of Charlton Heston. But did it have to be so bloody long? Three hours and a half of monotonous, stilted, unrealistic discourse peppered with occasional moments of interest. Wake me up once it’s over. To be fair, two sequences still work really well; the galley sequence and the chariot race still stand out as particularly fine pieces of cinema, mostly because they move at such a good clip. The rest of the film is generally dull and overdone. The lack of realistic camera movement , lighting and staging may have been state-of-the-art back then, but even middling modern sandal epics such as Gladiator can jade today’s audience. There is nothing in this film that a good edit and a few camera moves couldn’t fix, but as it stands now, you’d better settle down comfortably, rest your hand on the bible and pray the phone doesn’t ring in order to go through Ben-Hur again. Goodness know now I’ve done it once, I won’t have to do so again. The DVD contains a rather more interesting making-of, which spends almost half of its time discussing previous incarnation of the “Ben-Hur” story before tackling the impressive making-of of this current version. Hey, maybe it’s time to do a remake…?

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