Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review of Ben-Hur on blu-ray by Brian Hayes

Here is a review of the new Ben-Hur blu-ray by Brian Hayes, the newest writer of the Sasaki Time family, and our local film historian:

   Ben-Hur is seen as the gold standard when it comes to epic movies.  Every epic is always measured against this movie to see if it does measure up.  And why not.  Winner of 11 Academy Awards plus numerous other accolades, every time it is released or seen on television Ben-Hur is always the most watched film.  And now it has come out in a Special Edition Blue-ray set from Warner Home Entertainment.  And this edition is worthy of the film.
    When you first get the box you know you are in for something special.  It is beautifully designed with the picture of Charlton Heston on the front.  Take off the cover and you will see a box cover with the centerpiece of the Roman Circus in the movie.  In the box you get 3 items:  a book about the movie, A copy of Charlton Heston’s journal covering the making of the film, and the three disk set of the movie.  You may think that is not enough but I always feel when somebody puts too much stuff into collectors edition set then they are trying to hide something.  I believe less is better.

    Now lets talk about what everyone wants to know about and that is the movie itself and the bonus features.  That’s why we all buy this for, RIGHT!?
    Well here goes;  The movie is fantastic.  Talk about a classic this is the gold standard.  Granted it is a long film (3 Hrs 42 Min) but you always want to keep watching to see what happens next.  You get immersed into the film thanks to the direction of William Wyler and some of the best writing of a bygone age.  They don’t make movies like this anymore (unfortunately). 
    In Blue-ray it just looks so much better.  The colors just stands out and the detail is just mind boggling.  The opening scene of all the citizens moving through Jerusalem is just breathtaking.  The colors and the detail is exquisite.  And the Chariot Race is rally enhanced in Blue-ray. The whole movie just pops with vibrant colors and detail.  And compared with the old DVD version you will really see a difference.


   Now for the special features on the third disk.  They do not disappoint.  There are 3 documentaries.  The first is a new documentary Charlton Heston  & Ben-Hur:  A Personal Journey which is about Heston and his families’ experiences filming Ben-Hur.  Lots of great interviews with family, friends and coworkers interspersed with pictures, clips, and home movies from the period.  A really well done documentary.
   The other 2 documentaries titled Ben-Hur:  The Epic That Changed Cinema and Ben-Hur:  The Making of an Epic are both earlier pieces that have been included with the set.  The former is really a class on making an epic 101 with writers, directors, cinematographers, production people, and composers breaking down Ben-Hur and showing the audience why this film is so great.  Really top notch.  The latter is good look at how the film came to be.  The fourth piece is a slide program set to Miklos Rozsa’s stirring score with pictures, sketches, drawings, score sheets, clips and dialogue from the film.  I like this better the usual treatments of these artifacts because you do not have to keep clicking away to get through all of it.
   Also added to this collection are trailers, newsreels, clips from the 1960 Academy Awards telecast, and the 1925 silent version produced by Cecil B. DeMille, fully restored with a new score by Carl Davis.  A really nice treat to see both films together.  The bonus features are real quality bonus features.
   Overall I have to say that The Ben-Hur collection is a must have for your video library.  The quality is excellent and does not disappoint.  You need to see this movie to see how a really great movie is made.

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