News: Ben-Hur 50th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray

Ben-HurOur hard-working FedEx deliverer just gave us a box full of new: Warner Home Video is preparing the classic Charlton Heston film Ben-Hur for a mega 50th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray in the fall.

One of only three movies to win 11 Academy Awards, Ben-Hur is still one of the biggest box office earners ever, with an inflation-adjusted gross of $786 million in U.S. theaters, according to Warner. The 1959 biblical film about a Jewish prince who’s sold for slavery and must regain his freedom and get revenge, won Oscars for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor (Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), art direction, cinematography, costume design, special effects, film editing and music. The only category in which it was nominated but didn’t win was Best Adapted Screenplay.

Ben-Hur was directed by master filmmaker William Wyler, who also brought us the wonderfully romantic Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Oscar winning Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif. But Ben-Hur is Wyler’s biggest film, with 100,000 costumes, 8,000 extras, 300 sets and the most expensive budget in production studio MGM’s history.

Fifty years later, it’s still a popular movie with new generations of filmmakers as well as any viewer who enjoys watching the classics, and, as Warner says, is “a perennial home entertainment hit.”

Judging by the promotion package sent to Disc Dish — a box containing a glossy book with production photos, a leather-bound notebook inscribed with Ben-Hur and a pen that’s also inscribed with the name of the film — Warner is planning a release worthy of the epic film’s 50th birthday.

The Ben-Hur 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition will be limited and numbered. It will contain a new documentary on the making of the film, featuring home videos shot by his wife Lydia. In a special features highlight reel from Warner, we know the documentary has an interview with Heston’s son Frances, who recalls two of his earliest memories of his father: riding on the Ben-Hur chariot and Charlton bringing home sand from the arena that he said wasn’t regular sand, “It’s MGM sand.”

The DVD and Blu-ray also will include a reproduction of a personal diary Heston kept during the production, packaged with photos and sketches. Warner does right by its classic films, so we expect this to be a great set.

The Blu-ray version of the Ultimate Collector’s Edition marks the movie’s debut in high-definition. The last time Ben-Hur was released on DVD was in a Four-Disc Collector’s Edition in 2005.

About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.