The Not-So-Epic Stuff A.K.A. The Complaints Department:
Okay, including a photo gallery is great, but why only a mere ten pictures? A couple of behind-the-scenes photos, some conceptual drawings, and a few 'Lobby Card' style stills from the film. That's it. During the chariot race they had 43 separate cameras running... there must be a decent collection of stills and behind-the-scenes photos from this movie somewhere, so why weren't they included on this DVD?
Other than the photo gallery, this DVD is fantastic. The film is one of the best ever made, and its influence can still be seen in many of today's epic films, such as The Phantom Menace and Gladiator. Also, the extra content included is of very good quality, enhancing the experience of watching the film. I can even overlook the fact that the disc has to be turned over to see the complete movie. Overall, this DVD is worthy of Ben Hur's epic stature.
The Technical Stuff
Format: Region 1encoding (US and Canada) Dual Layer Double Sided Disc
Side A: Ben Hur Part 1
Side B: Ben Hur Part 2 / Special Features
Theatrical Widescreen Anamorphic Presentation
Dolby Surround - English / French
Dolby Digital 5.1 - English
Language Tracks - English / French
The Really Epic Stuff
The best feature here is a commentary track by Charlton Heston!!!
Feature Commentary by Charlton Heston:
Yes, commentary from the man himself... great content about the making of the film, from an actor's point of view. Utilizes an interesting 'commentary chapter-break' system, which presents a ">>| " symbol at the bottom of the screen whenever there is no commentary for the next few minutes. Hitting the 'next chapter' arrow on the DVD remote skips forward to the next bit of commentary. Neat idea, especially if you've just watched this 3 1/2 hour movie and are only replaying it for the commentary track. (Or you're Charlton Heston, who didn't want to talk for that long!)
"Ben Hur - The Making of an Epic"
This is an excellent 60 minute documentary about the making of Ben Hur. Includes a fascinating history of the original story, following it from book to stage to feature films. Also includes interviews with the cast and crew and great behind-the-scenes footage of Ben Hur's famous chariot race.
The Usual Stuff
Menu Screen Presentation:
The Main Menu screen includes a sepia-tone still of Charlton Heston in the chariot race, and buttons for 'Play Movie', 'Scene Selection', 'Special Features', and 'Languages'. This menu is accompanied by Miklos Rozsa's musical score. Sub-menus feature stills from the film, but no music. The 'Scene Selection' menu also features stills from the film. The menus on side 2 of the disc are of similar design. Not very epic, but it works.
Sound and Image Quality:
Very good sound and image quality.
Cast & Crew:
Includes career highlights for most of the cast, as well as director William Wyler.
Believe it or not, director William Wyler offered open auditions for parts in this film! Many MGM contract actors showed up for the cattle call. Can you imagine The Naked Gun's Leslie Neilson in Ben Hur? Well you don't have to, because his screen test is included here! (his scenes play better if you add little 'farting' sound effects.)
The 'bragging page', listing all the awards won by this Epic of epics.
Two trailers, one a re-release teaser and the other a re-release theatrical spot, are included. Do the original trailers stilll exist? Your guess is as good as mine!
English captions are provided for the hearing impaired, and subtitles are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Language tracks are provided in English and French.
A.J.'s DVD Rating: 4 Stars
April 13, 2001
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