DVD review from The Movie Snob
Ben-Hur (1959) (B). I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie, other than a heck of a chariot race. My first clue was the subtitle that I never knew the movie had but that was right there in the opening credits: “A Story of the Christ.” Charlton Heston (Antony and Cleopatra) plays Judah Ben Hur, a wealthy young Jew living in Roman-occupied Palestine in the time of Christ. As the movie opens, Judah’s childhood friend Massala (Stephen Boyd, The Fall of the Roman Empire), a Roman, returns to Palestine as an ambitious military commander. The country is ripe for revolution, and Massala expects Judah to turn informant. When he refuses, an accident gives the Massala the opportunity to teach the restive Jews a lesson by sentencing Judah to be a galley slave and throwing his mother and sister into prison. From then on, Judah lives for revenge. Matters come to a head between Judah and Massala right around the end of Jesus’s earthly life, and the Passion of The Christ turns out to have a special significance for Judah. This 1959 movie gives Christ and Christianity a sweet and sentimental glow they sure don’t get any more. Not a bad movie, with great sets and, yes, an amazing chariot race. Now I know where George Lucas got the inspiration for the pod race in Episode I.