Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TMT: House of Hur

This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Since I began with the Epics category with the start of my Versus AFI: 10 Top 10 arc, it was only fitting I’d chronicle a couple of them in this series.

“May God grant me vengeance! I will pray that you live until I return!” ~ Judah Ben-Hur to his childhood friend, Massala, who has sentenced him to the slave galleys


Theatre

The Nuart Theatre:


Images c/o Cinema Treasures site

Movie

Time

Summer 1981: first, a definition.

Art House
noun
1. a cinema which specializes in showing films which are not part of the commercial mainstream.
2. a movie theater that shows art films or revival screenings of notable older film.

Growing up surrounded by movie-going relatives, I’d heard, a lot, of great epic films of yesteryear they had seen first-run. William Wyler’s Ben-Hur chief among them. Every so often through the 70s the film would play on some local or network television broadcast, which allowed me to pick up bits and pieces of the feature over the years. Nevertheless, I’d never watched it in its entirety or in a movie theater during this span.

On the other side of the city, the Nuart Theatre had become the preeminent art house venue during that same decade for Los Angeles. In fact, its midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (and other unique and transgressive films) remain the stuff of legend. Yet for all the socially relevant cinema, foreign and independent film that’s been projected on to their hall’s screen, the westside venue was well-known for routinely screening repertory (classic) cinema.

Luckily for me, these two articles coalesced one Sunday afternoon during a certain summer. She-whose-name-is-not-to-be-uttered, who’d never seen the film at all, accompanied me. After lining up for the film’s first of two showings that day, and experiencing all of its 212-minute length (not including the intermission), along with that incredible chariot race sequence on a big screen, I finally understood what my family meant about the epic in general, and this film in particular.


The entire TMT series can be found here. If you’re interested how it’s put together, click here.

Advertisements

31 Responses to “TMT: House of Hur”

  1. ponchopadilla

    I’m really jealous, cousin. The closest i’ve been to watching the full epicness of BEN HUR is in a flatscreen.

    I know what’s that about Nuart Theater. Most arthouses and great theaters in Mexico City are (mainly) in the southern part of town, and I live far in the north. We do get tastes of the magnificent here in “suburbia”, but most times, it’s futile (the UNAM campus near my place does have fantastic film festivals from time to time, though).

    And going to the other side of town, specially during daylight hours is sometimes problematic (traffic jams being the main issue). But then, from time to time opportunities come and I get to witness the magnificence.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Yeah, seeing this one on the big screen, in a theater with others there to experience the same, was an awesome thing.

      It does seem art house group in areas. For us here, they’re mainly on the westside. Great that UNAM has some film fests, Poncho. Love that universities do this periodically.

      Thanks so much for the comment and info, cousin :-).

      Like

      Reply
    • le0pard13

      These are the type of film that lend themselves to the big screen and immerse the audience. I do have the new ‘Ben-Hur’ Blu-ray, but if given half a chance, I’d head back to a theater in a heartbeat for this one. Thanks, Castor.

      Like

      Reply
  2. rtm

    I am so envious that you got to see this on the big screen. Of all the films in the world, this is one I wish I could see in a theater (well this and Roman Holiday 🙂 )

    Btw that line that Judah said to Messala always made me shudder… I mean it seemed like an impossible undertaking for Judah to survive y’know, which made it all the sweeter when he came back not just as a survivor, but a prince!!

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      I consider myself pretty lucky to have caught this on the big screen. And yeah, I’d love to catch ‘Roman Holiday’ in a similar situation.

      I love that line by Judah. It does have a biblical essence, doesn’t it? Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Ruth.

      Like

      Reply
  3. Rachel

    I remember being flat out blown on my ass by this movie when I first saw it. I think I was about 10 and it was the first of its kind for my young movie watching self. I saw it a couple more times as a youth and have always remembered it fondly. However, as an adult I look more critically at the institutional racism that is still ever present in Hollywood (such irony for the US crowd that seems to most pride itself on progression). With these eyes, it’s hard for me to imagine I could enjoy Ben-hur today as I did then. Would you agree or disagree with that misapprehension?

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Excellent point about Hollywood and how its practices sometimes flies in the face of what they produce, especially in some classic film. Still, I think I can enjoy things like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, and this because of the progressive ideals they espouse. Perhaps, it’s because they still manage to produce them. I’ll still hold them accountable on what they actually do, though. Fine and challenging comment, Rachel. Thanks, and keep ’em coming.

      Like

      Reply
  4. Scott Lawlor

    Reading these is really inspiring a road trip. I would love to go from Lands end to John O Groats visiting a cinemas on the way…. I wonder if I could get sponsorship?

    hmmm

    Like

    Reply
  5. Max

    This sounds like an incredible experience. I’ve only recently seen Ben-Hur for the first time on Blu-ray and now I wonder how I missed it for so long. Color me jealous.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      I picked up that newly released Blu-ray Disc last year and am planning on showing it to my kids. Hopefully, soon. Thanks for reading and commenting, Max.

      Like

      Reply
      • rtm

        Oooh, so you got the BD box set? That’s cool! I definitely want to get my hand on those, there are soooo many special features and booklet, etc on it for collectors. It’s interesting that Wyler made this after The Big Country, you might have heard about his dispute with Peck on account of him refusing to do a scene that Peck didn’t find satisfactory. Peck stormed off the set and they didn’t speak for two years even though they were best friends before that. But they made up when Wyler won the Oscar for Ben-Hur. Peck congratulated him as he was waiting in the wing before his turn was up to present and Wyler jokingly said, ‘Well I still won’t do the reshoot.” Thought you might enjoy a bit of trivia 🙂

        Like

        Reply
        • le0pard13

          Yep, I’m looking forward to showing this one to my kids. The only thing that prevent that is if one of the revival theaters in town decide to show it on the big screen.

          That’s a great story, Ruth. Love that, and it shows what a class act Gregory Peck was in real life. Thanks for including it in your great comment.

          Like

          Reply
  6. Novroz

    I wish Jakarta has such cinema, I have no chance of seeing independent or classic in cinema because they’re only show blockbuster movies….not only that, I hardly see any British movie…always Hollywood’s. I want a different kind of movie now.

    great post Mike.

    Like

    Reply
      • le0pard13

        I’d lend you my DVDs of them, but they’re Region 1s. Indonesia is Region 3 so you’d need a region-less player. Have one of those? Thanks.

        Like

        Reply
        • Novroz

          I have a free region dvd player 🙂
          I have just entering a Sherlock giveaway from England which happens to be region 2.
          But I think it would be troublesome for you to send it to my country 😉

          Like

          Reply
    • le0pard13

      “I wish Jakarta has such cinema, I have no chance of seeing independent or classic in cinema because they’re only show blockbuster movies….not only that, I hardly see any British movie…always Hollywood’s. I want a different kind of movie now.”

      😦 That is a sad situation for someone who loves movies like you, Novroz. Sorry to hear that. Thanks for the observation and comment.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Ronan

    Ben Hur is Art House? Really? Ok. Well, I love that bit where they have the spear throwing contest 🙂 I know that’s not the most high brow contribution to this post I might have made but I haven’t seen this all the way through. In fact I think that is just about the only bit I have seen. There is something about epics that I find faintly intimidating as well. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the fear that I’ll potentially have to leave my seat to change discs, or refill the insanely large bowl of popcorn that would last the length of any regular film. But then, I suppose they don’t call ’em EPIC for nothin! Thanks for this Michael!

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Well, in this case, ‘Ben-Hur’ was screened at an ‘Art House’. And the old ‘Epic’ features like length and a intermission were perfect for bathroom breaks and/or popcorn replenishment. So, you see they are also perfect for today’s modern demands in DVD watching ;-). Great comment. Thanks for this, my friend.

      Like

      Reply
    • le0pard13

      This one is well worth the time, Matt. Nothing comes close to watching it on the big screen, but the last DVD treatment was stellar (and I’m looking forward to seeing it again with the newly issued Blu-ray) and merits viewing (on the biggest home screen possible). Let me know what you think of when you do. Many thanks.

      Like

      Reply
  8. The Focused Filmographer

    How did I miss this entry?

    You got to see Ben Hur on the big screen?! That’s amazing! I’d LOVE to watch Ben Hur that way! The chariot race HAD to be amazing!

    Another great addition to this series my friend!

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Oh, yes it was, T. Epic really means something with a film like this, and on a movie screen as it was intended to be seen. Thanks for the kind words and your comment, my friend.

      Like

      Reply

Are you talkin’ to me?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: