where is the silent Ben Hur version ? will this ever come out

Discussion in 'DVD' started by oscar_merkx, Jun 4, 2003.

  1. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Last night I watched the superb Ben Hur documentary on the dvd. Very well researched imo and thought it was just a bit too short, could have gone on for another hour as I discovered so many new insights. The stage play must have been awesome in those days, funny to hear that when Massala won the race, they carried on regardless.

    Is there a full lenght version available of the 1907 Ben Hur version.

    They showed a lot from the silent 3 hour Ben Hur version to my surprise. Will MGM ever get around to release that version ? I certainly hope so.

    Also what was very strange & wonderful to see was Leslie Nielsen's screentest as Massala.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

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    Many people here think the chariot race in the 1925 version is superior to that in the 1959 version.
     
  3. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    We ran the 1925 version in 35mm a month ago and the chariot race is staggering on the big screen. The '59 one is great, too, but the '25 seemed to have a greater sense of impact and danger.
     
  4. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    The naval battle in the silent version is also much superior; it also has the merit of not being saddled with the abysmal performance of Stephen Boyd.

    Warner controls this; perhaps they'll get to it as part of their promised release of silents in the upcoming year.
     
  5. Bill Williams

    Bill Williams Screenwriter

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    Actually, the original 1907 version of Ben-Hur runs only 15 minutes in length.

    I happened to record the 1926 version when it was shown on TNT back in 1989, and for a silent film that was just staggering. It was that great! They really need to get both the 1907 version and the 1926 version released on DVD.
     
  6. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    This would be one of the best choices to kick off the "Warner Silents" line that they hinted at.

    Among the specs and extras that could be included...

    Carl Davis score (2.0 stereo, likely...but I don't know if it could be remixed to 5.1)
    Segments from "Hollwood" about Ben-Hur
    The trailer
    Perhaps have some clips from the 1931 sound version (still exists!)
    and the 1907 version.

    I think the silent version is a LOT better than the 1959 version...even though the remake is still a great movie. First, Francis X. Bushman chews the scenery in every scene he's in. Ramon Navarro does a great job being the Prince of Hur, too. The chariot race is more breathtaking, as well. They had 42 cameras filming the race. The remake had 6 or 7. Sure, the remake had the scope and sound to make it exciting...but the editing of the '25 version is perfect.
     
  7. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  8. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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  9. John Koehler

    John Koehler Stunt Coordinator

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    What to do when I can no longer get repairs for my LD players?!? The stereo LD with that superb Davis score, a product of the wonderful Feltenstein days at MGM/UA Home Video, is a treasure.
     
  10. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Thanks for all the info about the silent 1925 version.

    Interesting to note that this is now in the hands of Warner, can anybody explain this ?

    Wow 42 cameras, just for the chariot race. They must have known that Ben Hur would be massive then

    cheers

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    The rights to the silent version were bought up when the Charlton Heston version was made; we conspiracy theorists suggest it was done so that no one would be allowed to show the silent version and see for themselves that it beat the crap out of the Heston extravaganza. When Warner got the Heston version, it got the 1925 version too.

    The 1907 version exists in its full length at the Museum of Modern Art. Apparently Grapevine offers a videotape of it.
     
  12. Eugene Esterly

    Eugene Esterly Supporting Actor

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  13. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Actually, the 1907 film was made without permission from Lew Wallace's estate. This film actually started the custom of getting permission before adapting literary works (and eventually other kinds of works) into films.

    The 1925 version was begun by the Metro Goldwyn company, but was finished by the time the company became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. When MGM decided to make a new adapation, they didn't have to buy any rights off of anyone. They DID, however, try to stop a screening of the silent film on the premire night of the remake. Ironically, many scenes in the remake were modeled on the silent version after the filmmakers couldn't figure out how certain things should look.

    Turner purchased the pre-1986 MGM and parts of the United Artists Television and then Turner merged with Warner Bros.
     
  14. Rob Ray

    Rob Ray Agent

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    MGM bought the rights to Ben-Hur in the early twenties and made both versions. Even in the twenties, this was considered a pre-sold, surefire property (the stage play had already been a perennial hit for decades and the book was an early best-seller). So it's no wonder MGM lavished so much money and attention on the silent version. They certainly did know how massive the property was. The making of the 1926 version is as exciting a tale as the making of the 1963 Cleopatra would be, filled with false starts, location fatalities, major cast changes and budget overruns.

    In the late fifties, when competition from TV drove the studios to the brink, they canvassed their vaults to see what properties could be remade. MGM dusted off Ben-Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty and Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse while Fox found its old Theda Bara epic, Cleopatra, ripe for remake. No rights needed to be acquired in any of these cases.

    Warner got the rights to both Ben-Hurs when it got the rights to the old MGM library, via its acquisition of Turner.
     
  15. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    I forgot to mention that as well about the copyright issue.

    Thanks about that re Turner buying pre 1986 MGM

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    Turner (as per their satellite/cable channel Turner Classic Movies) has a number of great silents not yet on DVD, most (anything not specifically licensed for broadcast only, but rather bought outright?) presumably now controlled by Warner Bros. for release (which will be a very good thing when their silents line comes to pass -- which, technically, it will in just a few weeks with the release of Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush in both its silent and narrated sound version, but the Chaplin films are an M2K thing and likely aren't thought of as part of WBs "official" silents line). Another title I've seen on TCM which many have eagerly anticipated on disc is the "restored" (extended with the artful use of new intertitles and production and promotional still photography) Greed. This and Ben-Hur would both make excellent early additions to Warner's silent line.

    I hope the studio provides further details on this line soon. Major studio support for silent releases has been a while in coming, and, as always, it just can't come soon enough. [​IMG] Columbia's release of The Matinee Idol early in DVD's history was a delightful surprise, and Fox's promotional Sunrise disc is a phenomenal bargain (sincerely, what a true class act is that DVD), but I trust 2004 will prove a banner year for studio silent offerings (and promotions/advertising, which I believe will be key in creating a consumer awareness sufficient to make these releases as successful as they fully deserve to be -- if the public is made aware of these titles, and they're treated as the big deals they rightfully are, I have little doubt both seasoned and budding classic enthusiasts will jump at the chance to experience them on disc; I don't know what sort of numbers Image and Kino have seen with their excellent silent offerings over the years, but I have every confidence these numbers will appreciably jump with the sort of promotional backing a major studio could/will bring to these under-appreciated gems of cinema's founding years).
     
  17. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    I have a suspicion BEN-HUR (1925), along with THE BIG PARADE, THE CROWD, THE WIND, etc. will come to us from Warner within a year or two. There seems to be a serious
    gain in interest for silent films on DVD. I'm just in ecstacy being able to view the complete DIE NIBELUNGEN.
     
  18. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Greed could EASILY be a 2-disc special edition.

    It would be neat to have a DVD-10 and a DVD-9 so that we can view both versions of the film. The DVD-10 could split the 250 min. reconstruction in half (it has an intermission, I think, anyways) and the DVD-9 could house the theatrical version with the Carl Davis score. The reconstruction features a wonderful score by Robert Israel. The remaining disc space on the 2nd disc could house segments from "Hollywood" and perhaps an interview with the crew that reconstructed Greed.

    I think the rest of the silents would make 1-disc editions... although, they'd be wise to do some multi-disc sets with several films on them. For example, many of the Lon Chaney films aren't very long. They could put them together in one box set. The Cameraman and Spite Marraige could share one disc.

    Just a few thoughts.
     
  19. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Mark

    any idea how to get a hold of the videotape of the early Ben Hur through Grapevine, like an address or website

    Anybody ?

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Derek_McL

    Derek_McL Second Unit

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    I would love to see all the classic MGM silents on DVD. The documentary on the Ben Hur DVD is indeed fascinating but I was surprised the silent version got as much coverage as it did in that programme with Carl Davis' magnificent themes resounding in my mind. Also The Big Parade, The Crowd, Greed, Show People, The Cameraman and a good few others.

    Warners are at least thinking about how to release them but as far I know there is nothing definite about when or where a "silent" series might appear. I guess it might depend on the sales of the forthcoming Chaplin discs.

    Next year we've already been "promised" the MGM Marx Brothers' films, more Hitchcock, more Flynn and more Cagney. Unless Warners are going to go into overdrive with their catalog releases I doubt we will even see all these titles before the end of 2004. I sincerely hope I'm wrong but only then (when all these sound films are out) do I think the silents will emerge from the vaults.

    Why so sceptical ? Well since the advent of DVD the major studios' record in releasing silent and early sound films on DVD is frankly woeful. Just "The Matinee Idol" from Columbia and the impossible to get if you live in Europe
    "Sunrise" from Fox. That's the extent of silent releases.

    Thankfully most of the classic silent films which have survived are in the public domain or part of collections like that of Blackhawk films owned now by David Shepard.
    This has meant that the likes of Fairbanks, Pickford, Valentino, Swanson, Keaton, Griffith, the early Chaplin, DeMille and other lesser known names have been reasonably well served by DVD considering the age and hardly
    wide-ranging appeal of the material. If these titles had been owned by the major studios I think its highly unlikely that most of them would have appeared on DVD.

    Actually fans of the silents are quite fortunate : there are some glaring absenses like Harold Lloyd but by and large the silent era is better represented on DVD than the 1930s.
     

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