By all rights, the original (yes, original) 1925 Ben-Hur should have been a disaster but it somehow managed to survive and thrive despite budget woes, fascists, and fired directors, screenwriters and producers.
While not without flaws, the film is extremely impressive overall with all the pomp and spectacle that made the silent era great. Ramon Novarro is a vulnerable hero and Francis X. Bushman’s hammy villain is a hiss-worthy delight.
How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.
In spite of the chariot race being the show-stopper, the film actually ends with the hero reuniting with his lost family and converting to Christianity.
If it were a dessert it would be: 18-Layer Chocolate Cake. Over the top but sometimes that’s just what you want.
Read my epic full-length review here, in which I reveal the amazing background of the film, share a whole ton of gossip and dissect how this production snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Availability: Released on DVD as a companion to the 1959 remake.
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I loved this movie, it was perfect for one of my “tacos and an epic” Saturday nights when I have the place to myself. One thought occurred to me while watching, though: if you look up the word ‘arrogant’ in the dictionary, a picture of Francis X. Bushman as Messala will appear as the accompanying photo. Your GIF reminded me of that once again, thanks :).
Wasn’t he just great? Hammy but the role screamed for hammy.
Aye, I like the 1925 version as well. I first saw it on the TNT Network on Christmas Eve night in 1989 (as part of a ‘Silent Night’ marathon that included NOAH’S ARK and DON JUAN. A later 1990 Dec 24 marathon consisted of BH, THE WIND, THE BIG PARADE, and GREED). I prefer both ’25 silent AND the ’59 version (I never saw the 2016 remake, and I have little desire to).
It is a pity the present print available on Warner DVD and Blu-Ray is edited somewhat. An earlier Kevin Brownlow-Carl Davis-Thames Silent print made in the late 1980s (and available on MGM/UA VHS and Laserdisc) has several differences from the newer print by the same people:
-A clip of Chariot-horses charging where the exchange between Messala and the Greek driver is actually sub-titled to the scene!
-During the crucifixion, there is a close-up of Christ’s nailed hand, making a blessing before going limp.
The final Hur gathering scene begins with a Psalm quote. To paraphrase: ‘Sorrow lasts but a night, and joy comes in the morning’ or something like that.
It’s sad this has been ignored. A recent essay-book BIGGER THAN BEN-HUR, has one writer list the Biblical scenes from the silent, but leaving out the ‘hand’ scene.
Yes, I heard snippets were missing from the generally available DVD. I was hoping that interest in the film would inspire a Bluray of the ’25 version but, alas, this does not seem to be the case. That was my single reason for wishing success to the ’16 version, which, from what I hear, is dire.
Yes, the making of this film is just as impressive as the actual movie
Quite so, it deserves its own movie!
‘The making could be a movie. ‘I think I made such an assertion in my old Amazon review last century.
Yes, a sole-Blu-ray (aside from the individual B-ray in the 50th Anniversary set) like THE BIG PARADE, or a Criterion would be nice. Ideas for extras: Interviews & notes by Kevin Brownlow and Carl Davis (although the latter wrote liner notes for the Soundtrack, which is also incomplete, although independent tracks are part of a SEASONS GREETINGS CD with Timothy West speaking Luke and Matthew). Clips from HOLLYWOOD- “Trick of the Light”, snippets of the 1931 sound re-issue, etc.
Favorite scenes aside from the 2 action scenes? The prologue with Jews migrating, Roman brutality, the Holy couple’s intro. The Star of Bethlehem. Judah, Esther, and the bird. The star-crossed Hur reunion at the door. The healing of the leper women (via Karl Struss’ color filter effect). I also like the many visual detail moments: the aforementioned ‘Judah sees the soul-dead galley slave at the pothole’ scene, the ranting crazy prisoner in the dungeon, the guard burning his hand, the leper dragging himself to the pool while the women leave the cave, etc. Carl Davis’ music is a big boost (in the ‘Cave of Bethlehem’ scene, he makes a nod to his KING DAVID score).
Oops, the Carl Davis-Timothy West CD is really called SACRED SEASONS.
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