Monday, July 21, 2008

Ben Hur, or the Learning Curve

My better half is a fan of Ben Hur (particularly the galley scene with all its beefcake). There's a DVD set released containing a new and improved version of the film (I mean better and sharper color, with all the bits and pieces, a musical "Overture", and a DVD of special features, which we watched last night.

One feature was probably created especially for the DVD set, consisting of prominent current day filmmakers (George Luca, Ridley Scott, tech people who worked on Gladiator, Ray, etc.) commenting on aspects of the 1958 movie. In many cases they emphasized how innovative director William Wyler and his crew were, how they raised the standard for historical epics.

The next feature on the DVD focused on the history of the story, starting with the novel by Gen. Lew Wallace (perhaps with a plot stolen from The Count of Monte Cristo), then a stage play (the chariot race being done on a treadmill with up to 19 horses), an early movie of highlights, then a 1925 epic costing $4 million. They possibly only showed pieces of the 1925 flick that closely matched the 1958 version, but there were many of them.

My point? The people of today were mostly ignorant of the past history; Wyler stood on the shoulders of giants as the phrase goes. That's the way it is, the way history works, both in the movies and in the real life of you and me.

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