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‘Ben-Hur’ Coming to Blu-ray Sept. 27

20 Jun, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warner Home Video’s mammoth restoration project delays release a year after film’s actual 50th anniversary

Film classic Ben-Hur, winner of 11 Oscars and starring Charlton Heston, is coming to Blu-ray Disc Sept. 27 as part of the Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition from Warner Home Video.

Directed by William Wyler, the 1959 gladiator epic underwent a $1 million restoration — frame by frame from an 8k scan of the original 65 mm camera negative, making it the highest resolution restoration ever completed by Warner.

“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, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog with WHV.

The Ben-Hur 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition will be available for $64.99 (three-disc Blu-ray), $49.92 (five-disc DVD set) and $20.97 (two-disc 50th Anniversary Edition DVD). Pre-book is Aug. 23.

Each numbered box set contains more than four hours of extras, including a high-def, feature-length documentary made by Laurent Bouzereau and hosted by Heston’s son, Fraser; a reproduction of Heston’s diary during filming; and a 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,” Baker said, adding that no studio re-release has ever included the lead actor’s personal diary.

Heston died in 2008 from complications related to Alzheimer's disease.

Unique bonus material includes “Charlton Heston: A Personal Journey,” a feature-length documentary chronicling Heston’s life while filming Ben-Hur, which 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 loving father and husband balancing his home and work life, and as an artist devoted to his craft.

“Charlton Heston: The Ben-Hur Diaries” features an exclusive look into an Oscar-winning actor’s experience while making an award-winning film. A reproduction of Heston’s private diary from January 1958 through April 1960, the featurette documents his time before production of the film all the way through his Oscar win. It includes personal photos from the Heston family and the actor’s own sketches.

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  widely is 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 also starred Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell and Sam Jaffe.

The film ranks 13th in all-time box office when adjusted for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo.


About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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