(Review originally written at 10 May 2008)

With a book consisting out of 558 and other movie versions that last well over two hours, the creators of this movie thought that they could put the entire story of Ben-Hur into a 15 minute silent short. No big surprise here that the end result is very muddled and story, directing and acting is pretty much non-existent in this movie.

This movie version is known because it was the very first movie based on the 1880 Lew Wallace novel but its better known for being made without permission of the author's estate. This wasn't an uncommon thing by the way for its time and studios were constantly making movies based on novels without the proper permission of its copyright holders. As result of it, the author's estate successfully suit the studios for copyright infringement.

Needless to say that this movie is a waste of one fine story. The one moment Ben-Hur is enslaved, 10 seconds later he's a free man again and 20 seconds later he's right in the middle of the chariot race. Of course the story doesn't ever flow and it you aren't really familiar with the Ben-Hur story, you'll have a hard time understanding what is going on in this movie.

The movie mainly consists out of people raising their hands and walking around. The camera at all times remain at one position (yes even during the chariot race), making this movie looking very staged. It doesn't help much that the movie uses very limited sets and extra cast members. Basically its a group of, lets say, 20 people that are constantly on screen.

Nevertheless the movie credits two actors for playing the two lead roles of Ben-Hur and Messala. This doesn't however mean that there is being acted in this movie though. A bit of a shame maybe, since the actor portraying Messala is William S. Hart, who was a real Shakespearean actor and later became one of the earliest and best known western actors in the late '10's and early '20's. He actually was a real life friend of legendary Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson and was one of the pallbearers at Wyatt Earp's funeral, along with other and bigger early western movie star in 1929. Well, let me say that this little piece of history is actually far more interesting than actually this movie.

Hardly watchable for a movie, not even for historical sake.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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