2016 Reviews · Classic · movie · TCM

TCM 31 Days of Oscar – Ben-Hur 1959

TCM 31 Days of Oscar

TCM 31 Days of Oscar

I’ve challenged myself to watch a movie every day from Turner Classic Movie channel’s 31 Days of Oscar. I’ll be focusing on the movies I haven’t watched yet, with maybe just a few movies I’ve already seen.

Here is my 1st day and movie of my challenge to TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar.

Ben-Hur 1959

Ben-Hur 1959

6 out of 10 Stars

Based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.

Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Martha Scott, Sam Jaffe and Hugh Griffith.

Narrated by Finlay Currie (and as Balthasar)

The 360° Game: Billy Rose’s Jumbo stars (Doris Day) and Stephen Boyd. Ben-Hur stars Stephen Boyd. Lawrence of Arabia stars Jack Hawkins.

And the Oscar goes to…

“It won a record 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Heston), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Griffith), and Best Cinematography, Color (Surtees), an accomplishment that was not equaled until Titanic in 1997 and then again by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.” – Wikipedia

Short Synopsis: An enslaved Judean prince (Charlton Heston) meets his Roman betrayer (Stephen Boyd), a former friend, in a chariot race.

My Thoughts: This is a 4 hour movie, so I’ve recorded it so that way I can pause and fast-forward whenever I want. And I will be comparing this a lot to the 1925 Silent Film I watched over a month ago.

This is a long film. Too long in fact. It needed some major cutting IMO. Here’s a breakdown of the scenes and I promise to have some entertaining stuff in between.

Ben-Hur 1959 Overture

0:06 The 6 Minute Overture. The music is ok. Awfully long overture. I almost missed the beginning the start of the movie after this. The 6 minutes does give the viewers time to get settled for this 4 hour movie. But then, aren’t we already ready to view this movie?


0:08 Joseph and Mary being “taxed” while traveling to Nazareth. A 2 minute introduction to the setting of the story and then it’s just a quick…

“Name?” “Joseph” “What City?” “Nazareth” “What family?” “David of Bethlehem” “And the woman?” “My wife” “Move on. See you’re counted in Bethlehem.”

From there it’s the Birth of Christ along with some “awawaa” music.

Ben-Hur 1925 Jesus
Ben-Hur 1925

The silent 1925 Ben-Hur film was better at presenting this story – the music and the way it was filmed was nicer.

Ben-Hur 1959

0:12 The Ben-Hur title and opening credits. Wait. So the last 12 minutes wasn’t the Ben-Hur movie? What was I watching then?!

Ben-Hur 1959 Jesus

0:16 Jesus in the hills working. Compared to the 1925 film, it looks like this film will have a little more focus on religion. In the Silent Film we only see Jesus’s hand in a few scenes. So far, the 1959 film is showing the back of him.

Ben-Hur 1925 Jesus
1925 white spot is supposed to be Jesus’s hand

Ben-Hur 1959

0:17 Messala takes command of the garrison from Drusus. A lot of Roman soldiers along with the military marching music. A little funny the way the actor talked about his dream of being in command. “Now I am in Command.” Ha.

Ben-Hur 1959 Charlton Heston

0:22 It’s Charlton Heston… I mean Judah Ben-Hur. Conveniently waiting for Messala in a deserted area with a lot of Spear Weapons on display. It’s a good thing to for the next scene is…


0:23 A show of being a Macho-Man… I mean showing that Ben-Hur and Messala are still similar by throwing Spear weapons. But then of course they aren’t similar because Charlton Heston… I mean Ben-Hur explains that he is Jewish and Messala is Roman.

0:27 And now onto Politics… The exhausting argument of whether the Jewish people allowing their lands being governed by the Romans peacefully or with violence.

Messala: …”And the people would listen if you were to speak out against rebellion. Judas persuade your people that their resistance to Rome is stupid. It is worse than stupid- futile. For it can only end in one way – extension for your people.

Ben-Hur: “I’m against violence. Everyone knows this. I’ve spoken against it. I shall do so again.”


0:29 And now to see Judah’s family… Before going back to talk about more politics again.

Ben-Hur 1959

0:39 Is he Gay or Straight? In case we’ve gotten confused, there is a woman that Ben-Hur is supposed to be in love with, Simonides’s Daughter – Esther.

Ben-Hur 1959

0:48 Those darned bricks that brought Ben-Hur to his doom. It’s obvious that the rooftop was already damaged and that parts of it would fall off. You would think if they were smart these characters would have the rooftop repaired before leaning over to view the Roman General.

0:55 Run Ben-Hur Run free! He’s been arrested. No wait, he’s escaped. No wait. Now he has to have another talk with Messala.

0:58 Esther tries to save Ben. Of course Esther tries to help Ben-Hur. She is his love interest in case you’ve forgotten.

Ben-Hur 1959

1:03 Jesus giving water to Ben-Hur. And he doesn’t even say Thank You.


1:06 The Ships. Sorry folks, but those be Miniature Ships there. At least the 1925 film had real ships. You would think being that this film was the most expensive film made at the time ($15.175 million dollars), that they would have some money to use for real ships!

“The sea battle was one of the first sequences created for the film, filmed using miniatures in a huge tank on the back lot at the MGM Studios in Culver City, California in November and December 1957. More than 40 miniature ships and 175-foot (53 m) long Roman galleys, each of them seaworthy, were built for the live-action segment… An artificial lake with equipment capable of generating sea-sized waves was built at the Cinecittà studios to accommodate the galleys. A massive backdrop, 200 feet (61 m) wide by 50 feet (15 m) high, was painted and erected to hide the city and hills in the background.” – Wikipedia, Production: Production Design.

1:12 “Battle Speed” “Attack Speed” “Ramming Speed!” Quintus trying to to break Ben-Hur of his anger and to teach him who is in command. But it’s just turned ridiculous. Am I watching a Mel Brooks film?

1:14 “Oh yes, I conveniently forget that I ordered Ben-Hur to come to my chambers. Thankfully you didn’t try to kill me in my sleep.” But we must forgive the old man, he got tired from giving those orders earlier and needed a nap.

1:25 Ben-Hur, the Hero. Oh wait. Wrong film. Quintus isn’t happy that he’s rescued by Heston in this film. I don’t blame him. I’d try to kill myself too if I had to be stuck on a log raft with Charlton Heston too.


1:29 Quintus won the battle. And oh yeah, we can’t forget about Ben-Hur.

1:30 The Tribute has arrived in Rome. Oh wait. Wrong movie. Ben-Hur and Quintus have arrived at Rome to great Ceaser.

Ben-Hur 1959

1:41 Parting is such sweet sorrow Quintus. And now I’m in the mood to fast-forward some of this rubbish. Even Gramps doesn’t want to watch this 4 hour movie straight through. I’ll be keeping the recording to that he can watch this later, so I can always watch those scenes I fast-forward.

Hugh Griffith Ben-Hur 1959

1:45 Travels on his way home – horses and racing. And Welsh actor Hugh Griffith wearing a lot of makeup.

1:55 Ben-Hur’s home is a Ghost Town. Oh wait. No someone still lives there, despite the fact that the home is now a Rune.

1:57 Oh poor Esther. Judah only cares about his mother and sister, not you or your father who was imprisoned and tortured. But at least he still has the ring she gave him.

2:08 “Now I’ve come back… as I swore I would.” in other words “I challenge you to a duel.” And nosw the drawn out discussion of Ben-Hur and Messala agreeing to a chariots race duel. Let’s see how much I move forward with this rubbish…

2:10 The search for Ben-Hur’s family… it’s the inquisition dungeons. And that explains why they have Lepers disease.

2:21 Finally an Intermission! So quick review: Judah Ben-Hur was a prince, then sent to the Gallows by his friend Messala. Now he’s returned for revenge and to find his mom and sister, who has told Esther to tell Judah that they’re dead. Now Judah wants bloody vengeance on Messala for sure!

Ben-Hur 1959

2:30 Nah, these Romans can’t be gay. Nah. But apparently the Romans just drank wine, danced, and went to Bath Houses like these. That was during their downfall too. Probably too much wine to the head there Boss.

2:40 The Great Chariot Race. Finally!

2:43 Race Starts. False alarm earlier. Now, parts of this looks real, but then they had to show close-ups of the actors and it just ruined the whole thing for me. And we all know Charlton Heston wins in the end.

2:45 Fast-Forward Speed and this race doesn’t look so bad anymore.

Ben-Hur 1959

2:51 Messala get run over by a chariot and survives. Really. He does survive even though he looks like a rag doll under that chariot.

And just after that is sweet victory for Ben-Hur.

2:57 Messala lives long enough to tell Judah the truth about his family. And sounds quite funny before making the exaggerated gasp of his last breath.

And so the rest is Judah Ben-Hur’s journey to trying to save his country, people and family. And also to give the Roman’s a piece of his opinions.

3:28 Ben-Hur’s family pleading for mercy for Jesus while he’s carrying the cross. And there’s lot of opinions too. As well as Judah recognizing Jesus as the man that gave him the water earlier in the film.


3:31 Ben-Hur gives Jesus water. Oh good grief. Let’s rewrite the Gospel shall we.

3:37 A Thunderstorm and all is well again. So dramatic but at least the ladies acted good.

3:42 The 3 empty crosses and The End. Yes, Hallelujah. They said it. I agree.


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