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Ben Hur

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Together with the new governor, his old friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. At first they are happy to meet after a long time but their different politic views separate them. During the welcome parade a brick falls down from Judah's house and barely misses the governor. Although Messala knows that they are not guilty he sends Judah to the galleys and throws his mother and sister into prison. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge.

Persons of interest

  • Charlton Heston .... Judah Ben-Hur
  • Jack Hawkins .... Quintus Arrius
  • Haya Harareet .... Esther
  • Stephen Boyd .... Messala
  • Hugh Griffith .... Sheik Ilderim
  • Martha Scott .... Miriam
  • Cathy O'Donnell .... Tirzah
  • Sam Jaffe .... Simonides
  • Finlay Currie .... Balthasar
  • Frank Thring .... Pontius Pilate
  • Terence Longdon .... Drusus
  • George Relph .... Tiberius
  • André Morell .... Sextus
  • General Lew Wallace .... Author: Ben-Hur: a tale of the Christ
  • Karl Tunberg .... Screenwriter
  • Maxwell Anderson .... Screenwriter
  • Christopher Fry .... Screenwriter
  • Gore Vidal .... Screenwriter
  • William Wyler .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • Awards and film festivals:
    • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS - Oscars) 1959: Won: actor (Charlton Heston), supporting actor (Hugh Griffith), art direction in colour (William A Horning, Edward Carfagno), best picture, cinematography (Robert L Surtees), costume design in colour (Elizabeth haffenden), director, editing (Ralph E Winters, John D Dunning), music score (Miklos Rozsa), set decoration in colour (Hugh Hunt), sound (Franklin F Milton), special effects (A Arnold Gillespie, Robert Macdonald, Milo Lory) - Nominated: adapted screenplay (Karl Tunberg)
  • See also Nativity, The Da Vinci code, The last temptation of Christ
  • Studios and distributors:

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Wow. It's no wonder they call it an epic. Even when compared to modern epics like Titanic, Ben Hur has nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, it outshines the boat movie with little difficulty.

Ben Hur takes you from the birth to the death of Jehovah (in the form of Jesus) as experienced by the "extras". The names you hear and the faces you see are not mentioned in the Christian Bible but they are the ones who are most affected by the things that happen. Titanic tries to do the same thing but gets caught up in the smaller scale (a boat is smaller than a country).

At the same time as all this grandeur is passing grandly by, Ben Hur is also a sword and sandal action adventure flick that inspired more than its fair share of imitators and bastard offspring (cf. Gladiator). There are battles, political intrigues, romances, lost loves and all that stuff mixed in with some crazy religious stuff and more gods than you can shake a stick at. Sounds a bit like Lord of the rings, really. Anyhoo, you're guaranteed a lot of fun in this 3½ hour epic (feel free to have a toilet break half way through when you turn the DVD over).

Meanwhile, the acting and directing have dated (as you'd expect for a film that's 42 years old) and there are tricks that would be done today that weren't technologically possible way back then, like a crash cam in the chariot race and a CGI sea battle. They're minor quibbles but I wanted to make the point that art, like life, isn't static, no matter how much certain people may want to wind the clock back to the golden days that never were.

Don't forget to watch Ben Hur: The making of an epic, you'll learn a lot about making movies and about the story itself.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Disc type: dual layer, double-sided
  • Picture: 16:9 Widescreen (2.70:1)
  • Languages: English, Italian
  • Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Italian SDH
  • Ben Hur: The making of an epic - 1 hour separately-chaptered special
  • 2 screen tests - Leslie Nielson and Cesare Danova with Haya Harareet
  • Commentary: Charlton Heston
  • Photo gallery

Security censorship classification


Surveillance time

214 minutes (3:34 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD retail: 15 August 2001
DVD retail: 6 November 2002 - Classics drama set

Cinema surveillance images

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