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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2011

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"Ben-Hur" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-ben-hur

Synopsis

High-definition Blu-Ray hits greater heights with the arrival of the visual splendor, thundering action and towering drama of this record-setting winner of 11 Academy Awards® including Best Picture. Charlton Heston brings a physical and moral presence to his Best Actor Oscar®-winning role of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman in Palestine whose heroic odyssey includes enslavement by the Romans, vengeance against his tormentors during a furious arena chariot race and fateful encounters with Jesus Christ. Best Director Oscar® winner William Wyler masterfully grips the reins of an enduring and spellbinding spectacular.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 3 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.76:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4/BD 50/2 discs
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd
  • Directed by William Wyler
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Ben-Hur was not the Best Picture of 1959 by accident. An incredible cast, led by Heston, the cinematography of Robert Surtees, the score from Miklos Rozsa, all blend together to create one of the great masterpieces of modern cinema. As to the Blu-ray, the quality of the film shines through. The labors performed to get it back into shape (re-mastered into 8K resolution) look superb on this format. Each frame was painstakingly cleaned and in over 200+ minutes of film, and I noticed no major problems. There were a few mis-cuts during the film, but they were minor and hardly noticeable. The details and wonderful colors leap off the screen. Some scenes almost look 3D, with incredible depth and contrast. The climactic chariot race scene has more action and suspense then the silly pod racer scene in Star Wars, which Lucas blatantly steals from this film. Ben-Hur is a glorious Blu-ray experience that your whole family can enjoy. This is a beautifully restored Hollywood masterpiece, the likes that Hollywood will never make again. If you love movies, this one is a “must own”.

Technical

As mentioned above, the movie looks astounding in it's cinematography, details, and set designs. Yes, the sea battle is fought with models, the large backdrops are matte paintings, but the picture is so outstanding and the story so well acted, you will hardly notice. What an amazing experience to view a true Hollywood spectacle that isn’t awash with obtrusive CGI effects. The sound quality is wonderful, too. Rosza’s score is broad and expansive, befitting a great film like this. The sub kicks in during much of the martial parade scenes and lends weight to the score. The surrounds are used to flesh out the sound from becoming too front heavy and work particularly well for the battle and crowd scenes. Dialog is always clear and centered onto the screen, and I never heard any distortion or hiss from the 50 year old soundtrack. The film is split into 2 discs with the intro and intermission music sections left intact. It is hard to beleive that this film is over 50 years old because it looks so very good. Thank you Warner for taking the time to do this Blu-ray the right way!

Extras

Commentary by Film Historian T. Gene Hatcher with Charlton Heston, Music-Only Track Showcasing Miklós Rózsa's Award-Winning Score and Theatrical Trailers. The 50th anniversary box set contains tons of good stuff while this 2-disc set is more for the guy that just wants to watch the movie.