A new collector’s edition DVD of the biblical epic “Ben-Hur” comes not only with four discs and loads of special features, but also a Bible study guide.
“Ben-Hur,” the 1959 movie starring Charlton Heston that won 11 Academy Awards, was released Tuesday from Warner Home Video. The movie was based on the book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, and the movie itself is sometimes listed with the extended title.
The study guide that accompanies the DVD is written by Revs. Robert H. Schuller and Robert A. Schuller, co-chairmen of Crystal Cathedral Ministries.
The nine-page guide is titled “Ben-Hur: An Epic Bible Study Into the Transformational Power of God.” The Schullers note that Heston has been “a frequent guest and longtime friend” of their “Hour of Power” TV show.
“I know that he views his portrayal of Judah Ben-Hur as more than just a role,” the guide’s introduction says. “He sees Ben-Hur’s struggle as an important one to share with the world because, like Ben-Hur, all of us have to fight and overcome personal battles.”
Heston won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman in the time of Christ who becomes enslaved but rises again, being personally transformed in the experience.
The guide emphasizes (and is divided into) seven areas: God Humbles the Proud, God Cares for the Weak, God Is the God of Circumstances, God Works With the Imperfect, God Blesses the Faithful, God Exalts the Humble, and The Rest of the Story.
The guide offers suggestions for leaders, and the last two pages comprise a worksheet that may be copied and distributed to participants.
A phone message left at Crystal Cathedral Ministries seeking comment from the Schullers was not returned.
The special edition DVD is a mammoth product. The film’s 222 minutes take up the first two discs, leaving the other two to offer multiple special features. Disc three features the 1925 silent version of “Ben-Hur,” accompanied by Carl Davis’ orchestral score.
Disc four comes with a variety of features. Noteworthy among them are two documentaries: one, on the film’s influence, features filmmakers Ridley Scott and George Lucas; the other chronicles the film’s making and is narrated by Christopher Plummer.
Also included are screen tests, a newsreel gallery and footage from the 1960 Oscar ceremony. Additionally, viewers have the option of watching the film with commentary from film historian T. Gene Hatcher, as well as limited commentary from Heston.
Director William Wyler shot the movie on 65mm film, one of the widest formats known. It allowed for spectacular panoramic shots and action sequences, the most famous of which is the chariot race that used 15,000 extras on an 18-acre set outside Rome. It took five weeks to shoot.
A standard edition DVD of “Ben-Hur” was released one year ago.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The DVD’s official Web site is here.