Jump to content


Ben Hur


64 replies to this topic

#1 July Diaz

    Earwolf Buddy

  • Administrators
  • 5,799 posts
  • LocationUnder a roof

Posted 23 May 2018 - 10:39 PM

Strap on your death sandals, as Paul & Amy jump into 1959's Roman epic Ben Hur! They discuss the incredible scope of the film, how Star Wars ripped off the famous chariot race, and how many characters say the word "leper." Plus: Paul & Amy talk to stunt professional Christopher Leps about his career, and where Ben Hur ranks among the great stunt films.
For next week's episode, call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 and tell us how you would cast a modern Wizard Of Oz! Don’t forget to subscribe to us on your podcast app, and follow us on Twitter @Unspooled.
listen to carmen christopher on the latest ep of my podcast trends with benefits twb.cool

#2 grudlian.

    Debbie Downer Award Winner

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 677 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:08 AM

I so agree with Paul that this movie could be 40 minutes shorter with nothing really lost. I've seen a few of longer movies than this but this really, really drags. There is no sequence that couldn't be shorter.

I know this seems kind of weird but I would probably trim out most of the scenes with Jesus. The movie is about Ben-Hur and then, occasionally, we check in with what's going on with Jesus. Without the religious stuff, you could basically end up with Spartacus or something.

#3 grudlian.

    Debbie Downer Award Winner

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 677 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:33 AM

Its been a decade or so since I last saw Spartacus, but that would probably be my suggestion on what could replace Ben-Hur. It's similar in genre, similar-ish plot, time period, made around the same time. I remember liking it much more than this most recent viewing of Ben-Hur. Does Spartacus good up or is that nostalgia?

#4 sycasey 2.0

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 519 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:46 AM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 06:33 AM, said:

Does Spartacus good up or is that nostalgia?


Spartacus probably also has its share of bloat, but definitely still holds up as a good movie.

#5 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:19 AM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 24 May 2018 - 06:46 AM, said:



Spartacus probably also has its share of bloat, but definitely still holds up as a good movie.


Agreed! I watched Spartacus for the first time a few months ago and enjoyed it much more than Ben-Hur.
Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#6 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:41 AM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 06:08 AM, said:

I so agree with Paul that this movie could be 40 minutes shorter with nothing really lost. I've seen a few of longer movies than this but this really, really drags. There is no sequence that couldn't be shorter.

I know this seems kind of weird but I would probably trim out most of the scenes with Jesus. The movie is about Ben-Hur and then, occasionally, we check in with what's going on with Jesus. Without the religious stuff, you could basically end up with Spartacus or something.


I hate commenting before listening (because they probably already said this in the episode), but I felt like the filmmakers were just so pleased with the scale that they allowed shots to linger than they needed to. Kind of like, “Drink it in, plebs! Look at the detail!” And I’m sure, at the time, that probably worked. However, from a modern perspective, while I can respect the hard work that went into it, I still need the movie to move.

I mean, I hate to say it, but I watched the 2016 version last year and found it to be - not necessarily better - but a more enjoyable experience. It was also a full hour and fifteen minutes shorter and included a lot of what was in this movie. And, yes, it did cut a lot of the Jesus stuff and kept the focus more on Judah.


Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#7 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 24 May 2018 - 11:46 AM

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image


Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#8 grudlian.

    Debbie Downer Award Winner

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 677 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 01:49 PM

View PostCameron H., on 24 May 2018 - 08:41 AM, said:


I hate commenting before listening (because they probably already said this in the episode), but I felt like the filmmakers were just so pleased with the scale that they allowed shots to linger than they needed to. Kind of like, “Drink it in, plebs! Look at the detail!” And I’m sure, at the time, that probably worked. However, from a modern perspective, while I can respect the hard work that went into it, I still need the movie to move.

I mean, I hate to say it, but I watched the 2016 version last year and found it to be - not necessarily better - but a more enjoyable experience. It was also a full hour and fifteen minutes shorter and included a lot of what was in this movie. And, yes, it did cut a lot of the Jesus stuff and kept the focus more on Judah.


I was under the impression that the 2016 version was more religious. Maybe they marketed it to churches more? Or maybe I'm just wrong.

I think this movie just walks a weird line going back and forth between being a typical (but grander) swords and sandals movie and religious epic. It doesn't work because the movie separates the two so much that it's just off enough. I use this as a criticism a lot but I'd like a commitment to the genre (or merge them better).

I've never seen Ten Commandments but I think I might like it more. Or be equally bored. If they felt the need to include a religious epic, I remember liking DeMille's King Of Kings also.

#9 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 24 May 2018 - 02:34 PM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 01:49 PM, said:

I was under the impression that the 2016 version was more religious. Maybe they marketed it to churches more? Or maybe I'm just wrong.

I think this movie just walks a weird line going back and forth between being a typical (but grander) swords and sandals movie and religious epic. It doesn't work because the movie separates the two so much that it's just off enough. I use this as a criticism a lot but I'd like a commitment to the genre (or merge them better).

I've never seen Ten Commandments but I think I might like it more. Or be equally bored. If they felt the need to include a religious epic, I remember liking DeMille's King Of Kings also.


I mean, Jesus is in it, but it’s not really about him. It doesn’t start with the nativity or anything. There’s also no Sermon on the Mount. It also cuts out Judah going to Rome. He goes right from escaping the galley to meeting Ilderim and learning how to race. Governor Gratus is also cut and just replaced with Pilate. Also, it was a legit attempt on Pilate’s life and not just rogue tiles bonking him on the head.

If anything, the movie probably needed *more* Jesus. It was adorable because some of the reviews I read had a problem with people being cured of leprosy - lol. I mean, Jesus is still in it. That was kind of his thing. Maybe they misunderstood who he was..?
Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#10 grudlian.

    Debbie Downer Award Winner

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 677 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:01 PM

View PostCameron H., on 24 May 2018 - 02:34 PM, said:


I mean, Jesus is in it, but it’s not really about him. It doesn’t start with the nativity or anything. There’s also no Sermon on the Mount. It also cuts out Judah going to Rome. He goes right from escaping the galley to meeting Ilderim and learning how to race. Governor Gratus is also cut and just replaced with Pilate. Also, it was a legit attempt on Pilate’s life and not just rogue tiles bonking him on the head.

If anything, the movie probably needed *more* Jesus. It was adorable because some of the reviews I read had a problem with people being cured of leprosy - lol. I mean, Jesus is still in it. That was kind of his thing. Maybe they misunderstood who he was..?

I never read the book, but according to Wikipedia, it seems like the 1959 followed the book closer than the 2016. So, I'm bout sure why update it? It sounds like the 2016 is following my suggestions though. So, maybe I'm not the film critic genius I think I am lol.

This is making me wonder why there haven't been more big movies about Jesus. Not necessarily big budget but just wide release movies. I know interpretation of his appearance and manner can be "controversial" but we've only had two (I think?) released in my lifetime.

#11 grudlian.

    Debbie Downer Award Winner

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 677 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:06 PM

Another thing, since Ben-Hur is a vey long movie and that's touched on by Paul, what is the longest film everyone has seen?

I watched Shoah once over the course of a few days. If we're taking one sitting, I managed The Best Of Youth with bathroom and food breaks.

#12 joel_rosenbaum

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 725 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:27 PM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 04:06 PM, said:

Another thing, since Ben-Hur is a vey long movie and that's touched on by Paul, what is the longest film everyone has seen?

I watched Shoah once over the course of a few days. If we're taking one sitting, I managed The Best Of Youth with bathroom and food breaks.
Scenes from a Marriage? That's a miniseries although it is filmed like a movie.

#13 joel_rosenbaum

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 725 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:40 PM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 04:01 PM, said:

This is making me wonder why there haven't been more big movies about Jesus. Not necessarily big budget but just wide release movies. I know interpretation of his appearance and manner can be "controversial" but we've only had two (I think?) released in my lifetime.
I'm guessing it's because the people responsible for producing wide release movies are not typically members of a Christian faith. There are of course explicitly Christian movies but it seems like their focus is more conventionally social and/or political.

#14 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:13 PM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 04:01 PM, said:

It sounds like the 2016 is following my suggestions though. So, maybe I'm not the film critic genius I think I am lol.


I don’t think you’re wrong. It was definitely dumbed down, but it moved surprisingly well. Like I said above, in the 2016 version, it’s an actual zealot, that Judah has brought into his house, that tries to kill Pilate - which is a little more exciting than “Oops, dry rot...” It also helps as a kind of shorthand to illustrate (quickly) the political climate in Judea at the time and makes Messala’s turn a little more understandable (i.e. “The assassin shot at the governor from *your* house, Jude!”)

My biggest complaint about the new one was that Messala survives and he and Judah fully reconcile! If I’m remembering correctly, this is after the movie has implied that, not only were Miriam and Tirzah imprisoned and lepercized, but that they were raped and torture, as well. It’s just such a big ask to forgive Messala after all of that. Maaaaaaybe a person might be at peace with it, but total forgiveness? I don’t know... I feel like the movie even ends with them leaving Jerusalem together as one big, happy family! I guess you could say that Ben-Hur forgiving Messala is the big “Christian” moment of the movie. Essentially stating that a good Christian forgives a penitent man, no matter how heinous his crimes, can you? (Spoiler Alert: I can not.)
Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#15 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:25 PM

This was discussed in the episode, but seriously, was Charlton Heston good?

I think I’m of the same opinion as Paul in that Heston wasn’t exactly “good,” but I couldn’t really look away either. I’ve watched quite a few Elvis movies lately and it’s kind of the same thing. It’s this crazy, ineffable star quality that some people just seem to possess. It’s pretty amazing really.
Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#16 grudlian.

    Debbie Downer Award Winner

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 677 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 07:35 PM

View Postjoel_rosenbaum, on 24 May 2018 - 04:27 PM, said:

Scenes from a Marriage? That's a miniseries although it is filmed like a movie.

This is great. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend Saraband. It's a sequel to Scenes From A Marriage. It's not as good, but it's also only 2 hours long.

View PostCameron H., on 24 May 2018 - 06:25 PM, said:

This was discussed in the episode, but seriously, was Charlton Heston good?

I think I’m of the same opinion as Paul in that Heston wasn’t exactly “good,” but I couldn’t really look away either. I’ve watched quite a few Elvis movies lately and it’s kind of the same thing. It’s this crazy, ineffable star quality that some people just seem to possess. It’s pretty amazing really.

This is kind of how I feel about almost every Charlton Heston movie I've seen. I think he is miscast here, which is definitely part of the problem, but he often gives kind of the same general performance. It seems like he's always overacting a little bit no matter how big or small the scene is. Just bring it down one notch.

I know they went over some possible alternate stars. I'm wracking my brain over who would have been a star in the 1950s that would have been a better choice. I keep coming back to Burt Lancaster but I'd say he has a similar problem of not being remotely convincing as a Jewish man. We'd probably get a better performance but still not the right actor.

#17 sycasey 2.0

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 519 posts

Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:05 PM

View PostCameron H., on 24 May 2018 - 06:25 PM, said:

This was discussed in the episode, but seriously, was Charlton Heston good?

I think I’m of the same opinion as Paul in that Heston wasn’t exactly “good,” but I couldn’t really look away either. I’ve watched quite a few Elvis movies lately and it’s kind of the same thing. It’s this crazy, ineffable star quality that some people just seem to possess. It’s pretty amazing really.


I thought the best usage of Charlton Heston was in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, when he plays an actor in the play-within-a-play. His stagy presence works perfectly there.

#18 tomspanks

    jaded meowndarin

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,847 posts

Posted 25 May 2018 - 10:07 AM

View Postgrudlian., on 24 May 2018 - 06:33 AM, said:

Its been a decade or so since I last saw Spartacus, but that would probably be my suggestion on what could replace Ben-Hur. It's similar in genre, similar-ish plot, time period, made around the same time. I remember liking it much more than this most recent viewing of Ben-Hur. Does Spartacus good up or is that nostalgia?


I’m going with Cleopatra. It’s a dumpster fire that almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox, but it’s the most epic dumpster fire.

#19 Cameron H.

    Jabber-whoppin'

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5,118 posts
  • LocationWerewolf Warehouse

Posted 25 May 2018 - 02:09 PM

I completely agree with Paul that Heston looked to old to play the “young Ben-Hur.” I’ve been trying to think of someone I’d like better, and I think I would have maybe liked Rock Hudson. I know he’s only two years younger than Heston, but I think he would have been pretty good...

Posted Image
Chilly: I'm telling you, man, if we had management, we'd be riding around in limousines, wearing leather pants, and buying condos. Can I eat this roast beef?
Body Rock (1984)

Seb: Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself.
La La Land (2016)

#20 Susan*

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 120 posts

Posted 25 May 2018 - 04:47 PM

My mom attended a school in Indiana that was named after Lew Wallace. I ran across him when I was reading Civil War history.

I'm only a third of the way into the podcast, but the opening scene of Ben Hur reminds me of the opening scene of the Life of Brian. I swear it's even the same soundtrack?