Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Now this is how you do a sword-and-sandal epic.
The first half of the film was shockingly ordinary, exhibiting the fact that Kubrick was placed on this film, as opposed to his baby. It goes pretty much the way you would expect this sort of film to go, what with the near-shoulda-been death and such, but even then, the film never dragged...I looked up and 105 minutes had passed...it almost seemed perfunctory, like the film was acknowledging it had to go through these motions to get to the good part (including the age old tradition of Romans being British and slaves being American), and when it got good, I was captivated...this was the film Ben-Hur should have been...this was 195 minutes that felt like 95 minutes, as opposed to that "tale of the Christ", which was 212 minutes and felt like 412 minutes, and ended with 45 minutes that had NOTHING to do with the main character!
In addition, the acting in this film was top-notch; all the heavy hitters were in full effect, Douglas, Olivier, Ustinov, Curtis, Woody Strode, and ESPECIALLY the great Charles Laughton all delivered glorious performances...about the only sore thumb in the whole spectacle was Jean Simmons, who I felt was out of place and miscast, but it was a minor qualm, and for the most part, just a stunning achievement...
I don't feel the stamp of Kubrick and feel it would probably have been more or less the same with Anthony Mann at the helm (a quality director in his own right), but I did highly enjoy the film, and think it a wonderful, towering achievement.
Anyone who says Ben-Hur is better than this is a big dumbfacehead.