Ben-hur, a blu-ray triumph
Based on "ben hur, a tale of the christ" by civil war general lew wallace, this film won an unprecedented 11 academy awards in 1959, including best picture, actor (charlton heston), director, and cinematography. the biggest of the religious epics of the 1950s, ben hur was also one of the most carefully crafted and by far the most successful. now, 52 years later, it still has the power to affect the mind and the heart, with a powerful story lavishly painted on a widescreen canvas. charlton heston is ben hur, a high-born jew in roman occupied palestine. his boyhood friendship with a roman who grew to be an officer in the imperial army (stephen boyd) avails him naught when a roman officer is injured by a tile falling from ben hur's house. he is arrested and sentenced to life in the war galleys, essentially a sentence of death. his mother and sister are imprisoned, eventually contracting leprosy and banished to a leper colony. from this nadir of despair ben hur rises by good fortune and the strength of his hunger for revenge, a revenge that he achieves in the epic chariot race. twice his path crosses that of a carpenter from nazareth, first with a gift of water on ben hur's forced march into slavery, then with a gift of life and a cessation of the burning hatred that had been in his heart, a hatred extinguished by christ's sacrifice on the cross. in 1958, heston appeared in william wyler's epic of texas, the big country. it was a secondary role to that of gregory peck, and heston took it because his agent said the experience working with wyler, one of hollywood's leading directors, would be beneficial. the very next year, wyler chose heston to play the lead in ben hur. movies don't come bigger, more lavishly produced, or more successful than ben hur. clocking in at over 3½ hours long, it is an overwhelming experience. although the high-definition blu-ray was billed as a 50th anniversary edition, the extensive restoration of the film delayed its release until 2 years after the actual anniversary. the wait was worth it. the film has been flawlessly restored, including a powerful rendition of miklos rosa's academy award winning score.