Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Warner Home Video:
Burbank, Calif., June 20, 2011 – Ben-Hur – William Wyler’s
unforgettable epic spectacle, starring Charlton Heston, that won a
record-setting 11 Academy Awards® 
(1959) including Best Motion Picture, Best Actor and Best Director -- will make
a dazzling debut on Blu-ray September 27 as
Ben-Hur 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (UCE)from
Warner Home Video (WHV).
An inspiration to generations of filmmakers with its legendary
scale and scope, “50 years later filmmakers and film experts are still in awe
of the film,” says Ben-Hur
documentarian Gary Leva. People like Ridley Scott, Ernest Dickerson, and others
told Leva how Wyler’s film inspired them to emulate the filmmaker years later.
Even with today's technology, they still aren't sure how some of the scenes
were able to be put on film. Scott, who directed Gladiator, said his arena was one-sixth the size of the one where
Ben-Hur had his famous chariot race. The gigantic oval, with incredible statues
and architecture, took more than a year to build.
For this release, Ben-Hurhas undergone a $1 million restoration -- frame by frame from an
8k scan of the original 65 mm camera negative, making this the highest
resolution restoration ever completed by Warner Bros. studio.
“We have been working on this extensive restoration for several
years, hoping we could be ready with a 2009 release for the actual 50th. The
meticulous process took longer than expected, but our primary goal was to
deliver the finest quality presentation possible, and we have succeeded in
doing just that,” said Jeff Baker, WHV’s Executive Vice President and
General Manager, Theatrical Catalog.
Ben-Hur has been on moratorium for the past year. Now
limited and numbered, each set contains more thanfour hours of extras
including an all-new hi-def feature length documentary hosted by son Fraser
Heston; a reproduction of Heston's diary during
filming; and an exclusive hardbound photo book.
“The restoration is
almost trumped by some newly-uncovered Heston family home movies, shot in Italy during
production, that reveal unique behind-the-scenes
activity. Believed to be the only footage of its kind in existence, this
marks something truly historic and
unprecedented. And we are thrilled to be able to incorporate it into the
documentary made by Laurent Bouzereau and Charlton Heston’s son, Fraser. The
documentary will be obtainable only with
Baker believes fans also will be enthralled with Heston’s diary,
which “reflects his thoughts and feelings on many of the days before, during, and
immediately after the film’s physical production.
“The diary is a replica of the original,” Baker said. “We did not
transpose Chuck’s words onto a clean white piece of paper. The natural fading
of the pages, and any mistakes, are all seen as they are in the original diary.
The concept is to preserve the
authenticity. It’s a remarkable,
collectible keepsake. No other
disc release in history has included a personal diary of an actor, let
alone an Oscar®-winning legend, sharing this type of personal information.”
Baker said that while under his watch Warner has produced several
other Ultimate Collector’s Editions of classic movies. “This physical package
in terms of aesthetics, historical content, and originality is the new gold standard for not only Warner,
but for all studios. No one can forget seeing Ben-Hur in a theater for the first time. And now, a half-century
later, it looks the best it ever has on
Blu-ray in this pristine high-definition film restoration, perfect for
holiday gift giving.”
The Ben-Hur 50th Anniversary UCE will be available for $64.99 SRP (Three-Disc Blu-ray), $49.92 SRP (Five-Disc DVD
set) and $20.97 SRP (2-Disc 50th
Anniversary Edition DVD). Order
due date for all is August
After attending an early screening, Fraser Heston noted in a
letter to Baker, “This is unquestionably the most remarkable restoration I have
ever seen. It was an extraordinary, life changing experience, like sitting next
to Wyler in his answer print screening, only better.
The picture was clear and sharp, not crisp or brittle like some HD
versions. It looks like film not pixels. The colors were rich and vibrant but
not overly so, muted where they should be muted, and bright where they should
be bright. Blacks were astonishingly, well … black!And the sound track was a rich experience in
itself - lovely clear dialogue, rich mellow score and clean effects. I look
forward to showing it to my family and friends as soon as I can.”
Details of the new
bonus content for this release are:
A Personal Journey An
all-new high-definition feature-length documentary chronicling Charlton
Heston’s life while filming Ben-Hur. Includes
behind-the-scenes details and home movie footage shot by his wife Lydia while in Rome. The film shows a rarely seen,
different side of Heston – as a warm, loving father and husband balancing
his home and work life, and as an artist devoted to his craft.
The Ben-Hur Diaries
First-time exclusive look into an Oscar-winning actor’s experience while
making an award-winning film. A reproduction of Charlton Heston’s private
and insightful diary from January 1958 through April 1960, documents his
time before production of the film all the way through his Oscar win. Includes
personal photos from the Heston family and Charlton Heston’s own sketches.
book with rare photography, production art and reproductions from the
original theatrical press book.
be available digitally On Demand and for download through online retailers
including iTunes and Amazon On Demand
With 100,000 costumes, 15,000 extras, 300 sets and a $15 million budget
that, at the time, was the most expensive in MGM’s
history, Ben-Hur is widely considered to be one of the most accomplished
Biblical-era epics ever made. Based on Lew Wallace’s best-selling novel and
adapted by Karl Tunber, Ben-Hur stars Charlton Heston, Jack
Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy
O’Donnell and Sam Jaffe.The film ranks
#13 in all-time box office when adjusted for inflation (source: Box Office
Heston brings a solid physical and moral presence to the title
role of Judah Ben-Hur, and his charismatic performance earned him one of the
film’s 11 Academy Awards® (a feat
equaled only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
In addition to the Best Actor award, Ben-Hur
also captured Oscars for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best
Supporting Actor (Griffith).
The movie was filmed in a process known as MGM Camera 65, one of
the widest prints ever made, with a width almost three times its height. This allowed for spectacular panoramic shots
and bold action sequences. Even by
today’s standards, Ben-Hur’s now legendary chariot race still astonishes. The lack of computer-generated effects, the
visually stunning MGM Camera 65 process, and excellent cinematography all make
the scene one of the most memorable in modern cinema.
Experience the visual splendor, thundering action and towering
drama of this record-setting Academy Award-winning film. Charlton Heston, in
his Best Actor Oscar-winning role, is Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman in Palestine whose heroic
odyssey includes enslavement by the Romans, vengeance against his tormentors
during a furious arena chariot race and fateful encounters with Jesus Christ.
Best Director Oscar-winner William Wyler masterfully grips the reins of an
enduring and spellbinding spectacular.
Blu-ray Special Features Include*
Disc One & Two: The Movie
and Restored from Original 65mm Film Elements
Film Historian T. Gene Hatcher with Scene Specific Comments from Charlton
Showcasing Miklos Rozsa’s Score
Disc Three: Special Features
A Personal Journey (78 min) [HD] NEW!
Silent Version, from the Thames
Television Restoration with Stereophonic Orchestral Score by Composer Carl
Davis (143 min)
Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema - Current
filmmakers such as Ridley Scott reflect on the importance and influence of
the film on modern epics (58 min)
Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic Hosted by Christopher
Plummer (58 min)
Journey Through Pictures - Audiovisual recreation of the film via
stills, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue
Screen Tests (30
the 1960 Academy Awards ® Ceremony
The DVD UCE will have
the feature film restored and remastered for standard definition plus the same
Special Features spread over five discs.
The 2-Disc 50th Anniversary Edition DVD will have the feature film restored and
remastered for standard definition with commentary plus a special edition
poster mail-in offer and a commemorative o-sleeve.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE ULTIMATE BLU-RAY LIMITED EDITION FROM AMAZON AND SAVE $20!
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE ULTIMATE EDITION ON DVD FROM AMAZON AND SAVE $15!