As the Academy Awards approached this year, I kept reading about Oscar record breaker and winner of 11 awards, 1959's BEN HUR.
With a long coast-to-coast flight, what better time to catch up for the first time with this nearly 4 hour film classic.
Charlton Heston stars as Judah Ben-Hur, a successful Jewish Prince at the time of Christ. When Ben Hur's childhood friend Messala is promoted to leader of the Roman Army in Hur's town, the two reconnect.
Friendly banter is short lived and through an unfortunate series of events, Hur is cast out to become a slave.
Hur's lifelong quest is to return to his home town of Jerusalem, liberate the family that was thrown into jail when he was made a slave, and gain his revenge against Massala.
The film is of an epic scale, one of the biggest productions ever mounted. The chariot race that concludes the film was shot full scale, with stuntmen and horses performing all the action live in a huge arena.
The chariot sequence is amazing. It's one of the most exciting 20 minute sequences in the history of film. I had to go back and watch the entire sequence again to soak it up.
To stage that portion alone would cost a couple hundred million today, it is staggering in scale.
Charlton Heston is at his best as Ben Hur, Jack Hawkins is terrific as Hur's slave master who finds more in Hur than he expects and Stephen Boyd is strong as Massala.
This is old school film making at its best, massive in scale, very long but never boring and powerful in its story telling.
Winner of Best Picture, Best Actor (Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hawkins), best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Special Effects and Best Writing.
It's an Oscar record tied by only two films in history, "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King".
This old fashioned spectacle gets an A for the Chariot Race Sequence alone. Throw another 3 hours of legendary film making on top and you have a classic.