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VIDEO:

MGM originally filmed the movie in Camera 65. Video resolution now is 1080p with 2.76:1 aspect ratio. The film has been spread across the set's first two discs (BD-50) with the break coming at the film's intermission. The work on this release began several years ago and has involved a $1 million restoration frame by frame from an 8k scan of the original 65mm camera negative. It had been hoped to have the work completed in time for a 2009 release (hence the 50th anniversary designation that still appears in the release title), but the meticulous process took longer than expected and to Warners' credit, they did not rush it to meet an artificial marketing deadline.

The extreme width (2.76:1) is requisite to convey the breadth and grandeur of the settings, and when you see the Roman legions marching from one end of the screen to the other, you know it's wide. And all those spectators in the stand are not digital artifacts, but real people.

To complement the screen's vast dimensions, the colour and definition are superb. Indeed, the high-definition image is spectacular, beautifully restored and remastered from 65 mm elements, remarkably detailed, always sharp, always brilliantly in focus, and more clearly delineated than ever before. Grain is handled extraordinarily well. Colours look vividly deep, particularly reds and blacks, accompanied by pinpoint definition, and have been treated with utmost care: even the skin tones (typically a trouble spot for films from the 50s and 60s) come off cleanly and accurately. Black levels are also rock-solid. The halos and edge enhancement that marred the earlier 4-disc DVD editions have been erased completely. The picture quality is so rich, and the dimension so vast, the resultant picture on my 12 foot wide screen using anamorphic lens is simply breathtaking. (5/5)

AUDIO:

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a force of nature - it's a perfect way to enjoy Ben-Hur's original sound design. This mix is decidedly front-heavy - as it was originally intended - but opens up in action sequences in order to augment an already exciting stereo mix. Dialogue sounds spit-shined perfect. Miklos Rozsa's score is placed into the soup with clarity and robust, dynamic punch, and the action scenes literally sizzle with exemplary exploitation of atmospherics and sound effects. (4/5)

I always enjoy the music of Miklos Rozsa. He is always regarded today as one of the greatest film score composers of all time. In a career that spanned over fifty years, he composed music for nearly 100 films, including Spellbound (1945), Quo Vadis (1951), Ivanhoe (1952), El Cid (1961), and King of Kings (1961). In Ben Hur, he won an Oscar for Best Music Score. His original long-case 2 CD box set of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of Ben Hur, released in 1996 by Rhino, is a nice complement to this movie.

Ben Hur is considered as an epic movie. At the time, it was the most-expensive movie ever made, and its rewards were not only to become a box-office smash but to earn a record-breaking eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture (Sam Zimbalist died during filming due to stress, and his wife accepted the award on his behalf), Best Director (Wyler), Best Actor (Charlton Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffin) and Best Cinematography (Robert Surtee, who had also won in King Solomon's Mines, and The Bad And The Beautiful). This record was not equalled until the arrival of Titanic!

The film's major drawback, its extreme length, may also be for many viewers among its chief strengths. I found much of the middle portion of the film flagging, but the length enables a good deal of character growth, and it gives extended time for the chariot race. Legendary stunt man Yakima Canutt was second-unit director on "Ben-Hur," and he was responsible for staging the action and training Heston to do much of his own chariot driving.

In addition to William Wyler's 1959 remake of "Ben-Hur," the Blu-ray set includes the original 1925 silent version as well, directed by Fred Niblo and starring Ramon Novarro as Judah Ben-Hur and Francis X. Bushman as Messala. The movie is 143 minutes long, mostly in black-and-white. This "Ultimate Collector's Edition" also contains a 128-page replica of Charlton Heston's journal and sketches (he avidly kept notes on each of his movies), and a 64-page hardbound book of text and rare photos. They are housed in a handsome box, all of which I will treasure.

This Ultimate Collector's Edition's package is similar in size to that of The Sound Of Music, Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind and The Ten Commandments. Putting them next to each other in one place forms a nice way to display all these beautiful box sets.

As noted before, this monstrous epic took home eleven Academy Awards and almost single-handedly made Charlton Heston a superstar. It's required viewing for anyone who even slightly cares about what big-budget epics from the olden days of Hollywood looked like. If you don't care about the extra goodies (thus higher price), I am sure that movie-only blu ray disc will be eventually released next year (just like movie-only discs for Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind, being released now). With the state-of-the-art video and Miklos Rozsa's music, this is definitely The Ultimate version of Ben Hur. This box set is also a Limited Edition of 125,000, with each set numbered (mine 64,402), Lastly, thank you to Warner for spending time and money to restore this epic film to its original glory and splendor. This "52th" Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition is definitely worth the wait and is very highly recommended.
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on May 5, 2017
Have several previous releases-- This one is the Ultimate for the viewer--- picture quality is amazing- if only for the CHARIOT RACE - oh my goodness--- on a large TV Screen.... a favourite of mine for a long time....
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on December 26, 2011
As one of my favourite movies, I don't ever recall viewing the movie with such a pristine and clear video image. The colours absolutely pop off the screen in this blu-ray version and I don't think I spotted a video flaw or artifact anywhere. Picking up this blu-ray with the added goodies, at the price that I paid, was a fantastic deal for any Ben Hur fan. I haven't even gotten through the hours of extras yet! There is just so much crammed into one package. Highly recommended!
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on January 18, 2012
Ce classique a bénéficié d`une excellente restauration.Les images sont très belles et la bande sonore est parfaite.Un pur plaisir pour les cinéphiles.
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on June 16, 2017
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 27, 2014
Included with this Collector's Edition are these interesting extras: a documentary of Charlton Heston and Ben-Hur - A Personal Journey; the 1925 silent version; vintage special features; production art book and a 64 page book with rare photos. I have to smile when I hear people complain today about how long a movie is (2 hours) compared to epics like this one of 3 1/2 hours. We watched it over two evenings.

For a movie made in 1959, Ben-Hur proved to be a magnificent undertaking, which is why I gave it 5 stars. Even by today's standards with all the available technology and special effects, Ben-Hur is still considered a remarkable production. Some of the sets are stunning and the sea battle and chariot race are intense and totally convincing. The photography during the chariot race could rival anything that might be done today.

Ben-Hur was a winner of 11 Academy Awards. The storyline tended to be a bit confusing in a couple of places, and was slow moving in the beginning, but overall it kept us involved until the end. The costuming was carefully researched and proved very authentic. The casting for the roles was quite good with one exception. The actress chosen to play Esther, the young slave girl loved by Judah Ben-Hur, was miscast. Surrounded by people speaking English in a certain accent (mainly American), she plays her part with an accent that not even her father has. Also, the characters in the movie were dressed according to the environment (read "dirty" and mostly "poor" here), yet this former slave girl wears beautiful, clean clothes, has not a hair out of place in her elaborate hair-do, and flawless make-up throughout the story.

The other note I would like to make is that I would prefer that when the Bible is used as part of a story, that it be accurately presented. A part of the crucifixion in this story was changed, probably to provide more drama. Other than that, there is some good history presented here in the storyline, especially the cruelty of Rome toward the Jews in general and by some of its leaders in particular. We'll be watching this again sometime in the future, and I recommend this for older teens and adults only because of the violence and bloodshed.
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on December 14, 2013
I had bought this as a gift for my brother in law. Part of me wishes I had bought it for myself! I opened it to ensure that nothing was missing and was amazed at how pleasantly it was packed and arranged. If you are someone who loves the movie Ben-Hur then this is the best edition you could possibly want!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 23, 2017
Ben Hur(released Nov/59)stars,among others,Charlton Heston,Jack Hawkins,Haya Harareet,Stephen Boyd and Hugh Griffith.This is a marvelous tale of friendship gone sour,turning to revenge, then ultimate victory, but all with the concurrent and gentle backdrop of the rise and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The story begins with the birth of Jesus, followed by the meeting of two old boyhood friends Messala(a Roman citizen,played by Stephen Boyd))and Judah Ben Hur(a Jew,played by Heston). Amicable at first, Messala's duty to Rome soon blinds him and it causes intense friction.When a roof tile accidentally falls onto a Roman parade below,killing one the military elite,Judah and his family are arrested.Judah is sent to work aboard ships as an oarsman,while his mother and sister are imprisoned and virtually forgotten about.
Years pass and one day the Roman fleet is attacked.In the end Judah saves a high Roman official,whom the latter adopts as his own son.Judah becomes the Roman chariot champion and the toast of that city.However nothing can change who he really is and Judah returns to his homeland to search for his mother and sister.
He arrives back at home to find that his old servant and daughter Ester still live there.He has always had strong feelings for the daughter, whom he now picks up with where the two last left off.The search goes on for his relatives as Judah visits his old "friend" Messala,now with some clout.He demands Messala try to find out the whereabouts of his family.Messala does indeed find them, but they have contracted leprosy and he expels them from their prison.They are spotted by Ester, but ask her never to tell Judah of their condition, and to tell him that they have simply died.
Before his arrival in Rome,Judah had met a friendly Arab on his travels ,who had asked him to race his white Arabian horses for him.Judah offered advice, but declined.Now the news of his family's demise makes him angry enough to accept the challenge.The race comes and goes ,and while Judah is the victor, it is an empty win.Messala dies in the race,telling Judah his family IS still alive, in the leper colony..Ester soon knows that Judah now knows the truth, but she begs him to not torture his family and to stay away from them.At first he does so, but the rumblings of Jesus' sentencing to die on the cross and his message intrigue him enough to see his family and bring them to Jerusalem to see Him.His family and Ester watch Jesus carrying his cross, while Judah follows him with the crowd.He finally realizes this is the same man who had given him water and the will to live on a death march to the ships, many years before.He watches Him die and at the same time as it rains,his family are healed.The film ends with the Ben-Hurs reunited and a shepherd walking his sheep in front of the mount with three crosses.
For an epic film,the story never gets lost as with so many others.It is what drives this film.The panorama and sweep is magnificent to behold, but the characters are always front and center.The acting is totally solid, and everyone down the line does a great job.
Technically speaking the film was shot in a 2:66:1 a/r and in 65 mm.This print is mind bogglingly grand.There are five single sided discs,four feathered together two X two and one single holder.The extras are too many to list,but the film is on the first two,extras on four and five and the 1925 SILENT version is on the third disc.The latter was the reason I bought the set, as it is unavailable separately.There are of course differences in the two versions, but they are subtle.I was a fan of this franchise through the silent version first,not the sound.But due to this fantastic release, I now have a deeper appreciation of the /59 version than I ever did before.However the 1925 version will always remain my favourite.That version is the one that appeared on video some years back from Thames,and scored by Carl Davis.All the original tinting,along with the marvelous colour sequences are inserted.The print is wonderful.Along with the DVDs is a thick colour booklet of shots from the film, and another booklet of actual excerpts from Heston's personal diary during the shooting of the film.
All in all you simply cannot beat this set.I neglected to mention that every set you purchase is a limited edition set.It is numbered out of only 125,000 pressings.So what you get for the money is out of this world and something you will not find elsewhere.Both the /59 and /25 versions are included and both are spectacular films to view.Whatever version you prefer,it is the story that will move you and the characters that inhabit that world.
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on November 28, 2011
My wife is a BIG fan of BEN-HUR and Ten Commandments. I am writing this review as she is watching it right now :-)

I ordered this firstly because My Wife loves it and can watch it again and again and second because Amazon.ca gave an amazing 50% off for one day only on the 50th Anniversary Blue Ray Edition. Mine is 55706 of 125000.

I am very selective of the Blue Ray titles I choose mainly because I been buying these movies in almost all the formats. First in CD then in DVD and now in Blue Ray. Now since only DVD's can be watched for now with an acceptable print on 1080p screen, I dont buy the Blue Ray Versions unless I the video and audio are amazing and sometime in future my children will enjoy these amazing movies.

I must say I didnt expect the box to be huge. Amazon always ships items well packaged. Full points to them.

Once we popped in the Blue Ray, my wife and I went WOW just by looking at the colors and clarity of the video. I have a Sony HX800 Screen and Sony BDP-S570 Blue Ray Player so that also helps. Sound is also superb.

Some sections you can see a bit of focus issues / softness issues but i am sure that was how it was recorded.

I would recommend this as an excellent Blue Ray disk for a person who is interested in collecting the best of the best movies, (video and audio and story).

If you are not so bothered about Video and Audio and just want to see Ben-Hur for the sake of the story then pick up a dvd, but if you get a chance watch the blue ray. It has been re-mastered very well.

I hope this helps you guys.
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on December 20, 2014
At the climactic moment at the end of the film, the music track echoes an hallelujah chorus. I could almost sing that all the way through this blu-ray. The remastered hi def image looks spectacular. It's a major upgrade from the 4-disk anniversary DVD issued a few years ago. The other special features from that disk are part of this package as well: two interesting and informative documentaries on the making of the film and the influence the film has had over the years and the 1925 silent production.
In addition to the improved image, upgrades from the previous DVD anniversary package are a glossy picture book describing the production -- a slight but worthwhile read -- and a retrospective looking at what playing Judah Ben-Hur meant in the life and career of Charlton Heston which adds an important personal touch to the package.
This set will give hours of entertainment, not just the three-and-a-half hours of the main feature. The two-and-a-half hour 1925 silent is an impressive film in its own right, every bit as spectacular and innovative for its time as the 1959 version. And (unlike too many other disc packages, where the extras are little more than long promotional pieces) the supplemental documentaries will bear repeat viewing, at least for those interested in film history and studies.
The combination of features about the film and its star make this a doubly interesting package.
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