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Watch Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ - Alternative Versions.
After seeing the famous 1959 version of this film a number of times in
the last 45 years, it was interesting to contrast this 1925 silent
version to it. However, let me say right off the bat that I enjoyed
both versions, and I am not going to get into the "which movie is
This silent-film version was more true to the book than the more-famous
1959 movie, mainly from the Christian angle. Just look at the main
title and notice "A Tale Of The Christ" was dropped for the '59 film
even though that is the official title and the name of Lew Wallace's
book. In this film, the life of Christ is much more prominent, and
that's the major difference.
Both films feature a cast of thousands, the great sea battle and the
dramatic chariot race. We have the intense and bitter rivalry between
Judah Ben-Hur and Messala, capped off by the chariot race. To compare
action scenes would be unfair since cameras and technical knowledge
improve with time. Both versions wowed audiences in their day. The
chariot race in the '59 version is still considered by some the great
action scene ever filmed, especially since it was done without special
Unlike the '59 movie, this silent version had TWO big stars in the
leads: Ramon Narvarro and Francis X. Bushman, playing Ben-Hur and
Messala, respectively. It also has an interesting mix of (mostly)
black-and-white and tinted scenes. All the scenes involving Jesus had
color. As in the '59 version, you never saw Christ's face.
Both had touching scenes with Ben-Hur and his sister and his mother.
Speaking of women, a shocker in this silent version was a quick parade
of topless women.
At 2 hours and 25 minutes this Ben-Hur was shorter than the '59
version. However, this is a long, long movie for a silent film and many
people today probably wouldn't put up with no dialog for that long, but
if you appreciate great film-making - from any era - this is a "must"
for your collection.
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