Award-Winning Epic Now Restored and Remastered in New Limited and Numbered Editions from Warner Home Video
BEN-HUR 50th ANNIVERSARY
ULTIMATE COLLECTORS EDITION
DEBUTS ON BLU-RAY & DVD SEPTEMBER 27
Collectible Box Set Features New High-Def Documentary about Hestons Filming Experiences with Never-Seen Family Footage and Reproduction of Stars Diary During Movie Shoot
Burbank, Calif. — Ben-Hur William Wylers 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 Collectors 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 Wylers 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-Hur has 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, WHVs 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 than four 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 Hestons son, Fraser. The documentary will be obtainable only with this release.
Baker believes fans also will be enthralled with Hestons diary, which reflects his thoughts and feelings on many of the days before, during, and immediately after the films 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 Collectors 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 23, 2011.
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:
- Charlton Heston: A Personal Journey
An all-new high-definition feature-length documentary chronicling Charlton Hestons 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.
- Charlton Heston: The Ben-Hur Diaries
First-time exclusive look into an Oscar-winning actors experience while making an award-winning film. A reproduction of Charlton Hestons 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 Hestons own sketches.
- Exclusive hardbound book with rare photography, production art and reproductions from the original theatrical press book.
Ben-Hur will be available digitally On Demand and for download through online retailers including iTunes and Amazon On Demand
For more information, log onto www.BenHurMovie.com.
More About Ben-Hur
With 100,000 costumes, 15,000 extras, 300 sets and a $15 million budget that, at the time, was the most expensive in MGMs history, Ben-Hur is widely considered to be one of the most accomplished Biblical-era epics ever made. Based on Lew Wallaces best-selling novel and adapted by Karl Tunber, Ben-Hur stars Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy ODonnell and Sam Jaffe. The film ranks #13 in all-time box office when adjusted for inflation (source: Box Office Mojo).
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 films 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 todays standards, Ben-Hurs 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
- Newly Remastered and Restored from Original 65mm Film Elements
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio
- Commentary by Film Historian T. Gene Hatcher with Scene Specific Comments from Charlton Heston
- Music-Only Track Showcasing Miklos Rozsas Score
Disc Three: Special Features
- Charlton Heston: A Personal Journey (78 min) [HD] NEW!
- Ben-Hur: 1925 Silent Version, from the Thames Television Restoration with Stereophonic Orchestral Score by Composer Carl Davis (143 min)
- 2005 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)
- 1994 Documentary: Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic Hosted by Christopher Plummer (58 min)
- Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures – Audiovisual recreation of the film via stills, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue
- Screen Tests (30 min)
- Vintage Newsreels Gallery
- Highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards ® Ceremony
- Theatrical Trailer Gallery
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.