|Burbank, Calif., December 18, 2000 -- On March 13, Warner Home Video
(WHV) will introduce for the first time ever the long-awaited DVD of the Academy
Award®-winning MGM film classic Ben-Hur. Starring Charlton Heston and
directed by William Wyler, Ben-Hur captured 12 nominations and received 11
Oscars®, including Best Picture. The DVD will sell at the suggested price of $24.98.
proud to be releasing this DVD of Ben-Hur," said Mark Horak, WHVs
senior vice president, marketing. "In addition to being digitally transferred and
enhanced for widescreen TV, the disc has a new Dolby Digital soundtrack remix, and the
results are spectacular. We are also especially pleased that Charlton Heston has recorded
a new commentary relating his experiences on the production."
Ben-Hur is one of two films (the other, "Raintree County")
originally photographed in MGM Camera 65, the widest aspect ratio (2.76:1) ever used
theatrically. In a single frame, Camera 65 was able to yield an image that, while
extremely wide, was still stunningly sharp and detailed. By the time Ben-Hur reached
the television screen, more than half the image was lost due to cropping needed for
TV's squarer screen (1.33:1 aspect ratio). Although later VHS and laserdisc widescreen
versions restored the scope of the image, the limited resolution of those formats pales in
comparison to the miracle of DVD.
On the left, Ben-Hur in its original widescreen aspect
ratio of 2.76:1, meaning the screen is 2.76 times wider than its height. On the right is
an example of televisions pan and scan version, with the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 --
more than half the picture has been lost. In the new DVD version, the home viewer will be
able to see the film in its original theatrical format aided by increased clarity and
detail the DVD formats resolution provides.
The Ben-Hur DVD features are: the Charlton Heston commentary, the new
digitally re-mastered picture and soundtrack (Dolby Digital 5.1), newly- discovered screen
tests of the final and near final cast, including Leslie Nielson, Cesare Danova and Haya
Harareet, the addition of the seldom- heard Overture and Entracte music, the behind-
the- scenes documentary, Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic, the original theatrical
trailer and an on-the-set photo gallery featuring Wyler, producer Sam Zimbalist, cameraman
Robert Surtees and others.
Charlton Heston stars in the title role of Ben-Hur as a Jewish nobleman
in biblical Palestine who is drawn into a heroic odyssey. After being enslaved by the
Romans, he wins his freedom by saving his master in a fierce sea battle and wreaks
vengeance against his tormentors during a furious chariot race, ultimately becoming a man
of peace after a fateful encounter with Jesus Christ. Based on the novel, Ben-Hur: A
Tale of the Christ, by General Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur also starred Jack
Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, along with Cathy
ODonnell and Sam Jaffe. The movie was produced by Sam Zimbalist.
MGM remade the quintessential motion picture epic from their own
magnificent 1925 silent film of the same name which cost $4 million, and starred silent
screen idols Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman. Wylers version, which cost $15
million and was the most expensive Hollywood film at the time, ultimately achieved
Ben-Hurs Oscars® were for Best Picture, Best Actor (Heston), Best
Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), Best Director, Best Music Score (Miklos Rozsa), Best
Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Color Cinematography, Best Color Costume Design,
Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Special Effects.
While Hollywood veteran Karl Tunberg received Ben-Hurs sole
screenplay credit, its widely known that others contributed to the final version of
the script. They included then-MGM contract writer Gore Vidal and renowned Broadway and
English playwrights Maxwell Anderson, S.N. Behrman and Christopher Fry. Andrew Marton and
Yakima Canutt, the second-unit directors, created the two outstanding action sequences
--the sea battle and the chariot race.
Prior to the release of the DVD, Ben-Hur will be getting its own page on
the Warner Home Video Web Site, www.warnervideo.com.
RUN TIME: 3 hours and 42 minutes.
DVD EXTRAS RUN TIME: 68 minutes.