AFI # 100: Ben-Hur 1959
I will begin each review with a “What I know, or What I Think I Know…” intro. These intros were all compiled before I set out on this journey, and can be read in their entirety (HERE). Let us begin with # 100 Ben-Hur.
What I know or what I think I know
- There are chariot races.
- This features Charlton Heston (what kind of name is Charlton?)
- This is a long movie, it required 2 VHS tapes to watch and we all know what that means.
- I know that this movie has some sort of cultural significance to a town about 25 minutes from where I grew up. Crawfordsville, Indiana.
This movie is about Roman gladiators, and the main character is a slave/prisoner and is trying to win his freedom by racing chariots.
The Real Review
“Jewish prince is betrayed by friend and faulty roof tile. Prince turned prisoner joins competitive rowing team only to be adopted by his wealthy boss after winning a close game of battle ship. Prince comes back with new-found fame and title and kills backstabbing “friend” in a chariot race (unknown tile man remains at large). Mysterious water boy comes and goes through out the story but graciously saves the life of the Prince, his family and every person who accepts him for all eternity. (John 3:16)”
Ok, this isn’t exactly what happened in Ben-Hur, but I tell you what, if MGM had put that synopsis on the back of the box, chances are I would have attempted to watch this a lot sooner! The point is, I made it! The movie was 3 ½ hours long ( I swear 40 mins of it was overture, credits and intermission) but I watched all of it. (turning on closed caption helped me keep focus, #adhdprotip)
This movie was not what I expected at all. I mean, I got the little things right, there was a chariot race, and while Ben-Hur was at one time a prince, he was also made to be a prisoner and a slave. But for a film from 1959, I was impressedat how real the boat scene and chariot races appeared. I consulted my old friend IMDB and read through the trivia section (read it here) and saw that MGM paid 15 million for this movie, a gamble for this time, but they earned over 75 million for their troubles. The chariot scene alone cost 4 million and took 10 weeks to shoot. I can see why they won 11 Oscars.
The biggest shock for me was its parallels to the Bible. I had no idea. I know this is a work of fiction and Ben-Hur himself does not appear in the Bible, but from the birth of Jesus to the rise of Pontius Pilate, sermon on the mount to the crucifixion, it’s all there. I had no idea! It was a big box office reminder of the power of God’s Grace and how precious his promise is.
Oh, I mentioned earlier there was a cultural connection close to my home town. Upon further research, the movie is based on a novel: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Wallace was born in Indiana and spent much of his adult and retired life (including death) in Crawfordsville Indiana. Read more about him and his life Here. #themoreyouknow
Are you already a fan of Ben-Hur and want to read my scene by scene reactions while I watched the movie, click HERE to read along. You know you want to!
1 movie down, 99 to go. Next up, Toy Story!