The great chariot race revisited

Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Short Rows Header    I’m not a big movie goer, and much of what passes for movie entertainment today just doesn’t have a great deal of appeal.

    But my interest was piqued when I read this week that the movie Ben Hur is being remade.

    This will be the third movie by the name and based on the novel written in the late 19th century by Lew Wallace. The novel actually outsold “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and was the most popular work of fiction in the United States until publication of “Gone with the Wind” in 1936. It was also the first in an impressive line of novels based on the life of Christ and the founding of Christianity. Mostly products of the mid 20th century, they also included “The Robe” and “The Silver Chalice.”

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    That said, “Ben Hur” was in a class by itself. The book and the movies it spawned were and remain a great story about Christian love and compassion overcoming anger and a desire for revenge. (Come to think of it, that’s not a bad message for Americans to hear in this very angry year.)


    But to be perfectly honest, I remember Ben Hur because of the chariot race. What youngster could possibly watch the 1959 version of the movie — we saw it at a drive-in — and not have the spine-tingling race around the Roman Coliseum permanently imbedded in our minds. We will forever remember Charlton Heston driving his chariot in competition with his nemesis and one-time friend Messala, the evil guy who had deadly knives attached to his chariot axles to kill off his challengers.

    It will be interesting to see how the new version handles not only the action, but Lew Wallace’s story as well. Computer graphics have made the seemingly impossible possible, so it will undoubtedly be impressive. I just hope it treats the story line as sensitively as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production did nearly 60 years ago.

    We would probably view Heston’s Judah Ben Hur and the 1959 handling of the story as overly sentimental today, but there are times when I think returning to a more sentimental world-view would be an awfully good thing.

    See you at the movies.