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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ (1925)

A wealthy Jewish Prince (Ramon Novarro) finds his childhood friend Messala (Francix X. Bushman) quite changed when he returns to Jerusalem as a Roman tribune. When an accident occurs, the tribune uses it as an excuse to banish the Prince to slave labor in a Roman ship's galley and the Prince's mother (Claire McDowell) and sister (Kathleen Key) to the underground dungeons. Based on the 1880 novel by General Lew Wallace and directed by Fred Niblo. As a spectacle, it is the equal of the 1959 Oscar winning remake. Nothing is spared in its lavishness and this is one opulent epic. Like the 1959 film, the movie's centerpiece is the spectacular chariot race between Ben-Hur and Messala and it's still quite amazing. Unfortunately, unlike the 1959 film, after the chariot race the film drags. Most of the acting is weak (especially Novarro) and there's not much complexity in the characters. Messala, for example, is extremely one dimensional compared to the 1959 film. Some of the scenes are in the two strip Technicolor process but the overall cinematography (credited to 4 people no less) is very impressive. With May McAvoy, Betty Bronson, Nigel De Brulier, Mitchell Lewis and in my favorite performance in the film, Carmel Myers as an Egyptian seductress.

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