August 13th, 2016

Does the world need another “Ben-Hur”?

I dunno. But it’s got one.

I saw the 1959 movie in a movie theater in Manhattan when it first came out. The place was so packed that we had to sit very very close up, which turned out to be a big mistake for a young and impressionable child, because the movie was scary. The Roman galley. The chariot race. The lepers. The crucifixion. I was traumatized by it; sitting up so close to an absolutely enormous screen, I felt almost as though I’d been catapulted into the action.

Not long after the book was written (1880), it was dramatized as a play (1899). Since then, it’s been made into several movies: a short in 1907, a silent film in 1925, the Charlton Heston version I saw in 1959, an animated one with Heston’s voice in 2003, and now this new one.

I don’t plan to see it. But if you do, my advice is not to sit in the first row.

16 Responses to “Does the world need another “Ben-Hur”?”

  1. T Says:

    Poorly done remakes or comic book superheroes; this is what now passes for creativity in Hollywood.

    (Although I must admit I find the remake of True Grit with Jeff Bridges a huge improvement over the John Wayne original—heresy, I know!)

  2. Nolanimrod Says:

    re: sitting in the first row

    I was in a production of “The Royal Hunt of the Sun” sometime circa 1970. One member of the audience in the first row had chosen to lounge in his seat and put his feet up on the stage. Finally one of the actors had had enough. In a scene where the blocking had him deliver his lines right at the front of the stage he punctuated his speech by drawing his sword and bringing it down smartly on the offending ankles.

    Almost everybody loved it.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I quickly lost interest when I read that the director dropped the “revenge” and “miracles” of the 1959 movie for an emphasis upon ‘forgiveness’. Pure political correctness that completely guts the main theme of the movie which is not revenge but justice, not rendered by Ben Hur but by Masala’s evil coming back upon him. And, with Masala’s actions having resulted in Ben Hur’s mother and sister having become lepers, miraculously healed by God’s love.

    BTW, the 1959 Ben Hur in bluray holds up astonishingly well with superlative video reproduction values.

  4. AesopFan Says:

    From the Wiki, the director “He was fascinated by the 1959 film but found the focus on revenge rather than forgiveness to be the main problem. And this was the indeed prime difference between the book and the 1959 movie; the book was written about forgiveness, and the movie was about revenge and miracles. Hence, he wanted to stress on themes of forgiveness and love rather then mere vengeance. He found “the most important values of pride, rivalry, power, strength, the dictatorship of power and self-love” that were prominent in the Roman Empire to be passé in the contemporary world of today. Hence, he wanted those themes to be the primary subjects in this version.[36][3] He said that the film is not just about the story of Ben-Hur alone, but rather a shared story of him and his brother, Messala.[4]”

    I will sit well back from the front row.

  5. AesopFan Says:

    Nolanimrod Says:
    August 13th, 2016 at 1:36 pm
    re: sitting in the first row

    I was in a production of “The Royal Hunt of the Sun” sometime circa 1970. One member of the audience in the first row had chosen to lounge in his seat and put his feet up on the stage. Finally one of the actors had had enough. In a scene where the blocking had him deliver his lines right at the front of the stage he punctuated his speech by drawing his sword and bringing it down smartly on the offending ankles.

    Almost everybody loved it.

    * *
    What’s not to love 😉

  6. NeoConScum Says:

    I totally agree with ‘John Houston’s Rule on Remakes’:

    NEVER remake a Classic. Feel free to remake bad movies. Make them better.
    Amen, Mr. Houston!!

    No way on “Ben Hur”. No way on “The Magnificent Seven”. And, no way on “True Grit”.

  7. John F. MacMichael Says:

    Of course, “The Magnificent Seven” was itself a remake of “The Seven Samurai”.

  8. Brian Swisher Says:

    To raise a possibly hair-splitting point: Ben Hur existed as a novel before being made into a movie, so the various versions of are different takes on the same source material. “Ghostbusters 2016” is a remake – “Ghostbusters” exists only in movie form.

    And by the way, there was only one “Ghostbusters” movie. 😉

  9. Philip Says:

    I agree with T completely! I even said that very thing to a coworker the other day. (I left out the “poorly done” part, since I avoid remakes out of principle, so I don’t know how good or bad they are except at second hand.)

    As it happens, I’m listening to the Moonraker soundtrack as I type this. That’s one of the few movies that I think could stand a remake, since the space special effects were pretty bad and some of the fight scenes were uninspiring.

  10. NeoConScum Says:

    John F. MacM: Yes, but most of us in America had never seen The Seven Samurai. Shirikawa’s kibuki version of Macbeth, “Throne of Blood” is incredible.

  11. Michael Lonie Says:

    Kurosawa’s Ran was a Japanese interpretation of King Lear. It is a superb movie, but so chilling and emotionally traumatic that I’ve never had a desire to see it again.

    Seven Samurai was also excellent and worth seeing again. There are some profound observations of the human condition in it.

  12. John F. MacMichael Says:

    Michael Lonie, yes Seven Samurai is one of the rare movies that one can enjoy watching repeatedly.

    Among it’s “…profound observations of the human condition…” is the Old Man’s sublimely cynical answer when one of the villagers protests that they are poor folk, so how can they find samurai to fight for them? He tell them: “Find hungry samurai.”

  13. NeoConScum Says:

    “KUROSAWA’S, “THRONE OF BLOOD” !!

    SHEEEESH…!!! Sorry, Guys, this old age thing ain’t fer sissies.

  14. Brian Swisher Says:

    “Moonraker” had one of the more mediocre scripts from the Roger Moore era, and the space effects are dated by today’s standards, but the technical achievement (for the time) is quite interesting. They contacted several special effects houses and got bids that were much higher than they could afford for the film, so they wound up doing all their effects shots in-camera. That is, they shot an element with the rest of the picture blocked off, rewound the film, and shot another element with a different portion of the picture blocked off. This technique goes all the way back to Maria’s transformation scene in “Metropolis”. Some shots with a lot of elements required 96 passes through the camera. Rewatch some of the scenes from “Moonraker” with that in mind and marvel at the patience and technical effort that was required to create them.

  15. OM Says:

    T:

    I agree with you on “True Grit” with Jeff Bridges. I donate platelets regularly to the Red Cross and watch a movie during the process. I choose what I watch carefully since I don’t want to bother the nurses once everything is “plugged in.” Anyway, there is a lot of depth and message in the film, and have watched it many times.

  16. Philip Says:

    Brian, that’s quite an interesting point. Maybe I’ll do that some time.

    Really, there are only two reasons that I have a soft spot for Moonraker: (1) about half of the soundtrack, (2) Lois Chiles. The rest I can honestly take or leave.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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