Ben Hur

Mention the name of actor, Charlton Heston, and people automatically relate him to his work on the biblical epic; Ben Hur. Based on the book by Lew Wallace, Ben Hur is the story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed by his best friend and sentenced to slavery working in the Roman galleys. When he regains his freedom, he comes back for revenge which presents itself in the form of a chariot race. Interwoven into the story is a mysterious man who calls himself Jesus, and ultimately impacts Ben Hur's life forever (On a unique side-note, Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur, served as a Governor in my birth state; New Mexico). The film itself was a huge success making about $70,000,000.
Hungarian composer, Miklos Rozsa knew how to really score a biblical epic. He had already scored a film called Quo Vadis (I'll be reviewing that one later on), which was from the same genre. That was probably one of the reasons he was picked to score this massive story. The score has it all. From Roman fanfare and overtures, to tender love themes, to action-filled music.
The cue, Star of Bethlehem, takes place during the birth of Jesus Christ and Rozsa uses strings and a backing choir announcing the birth of a King. For Jesus himself, Rozsa used a sensitive theme playing on the strings and with pizzicato strings subtly backing it up. That theme is most prevalent in the cues, Prince of Peace Pt. One and Two. The Galley is a laborious sounding piece as the galley slaves who are rowing a Roman battleship go back and forth to the beat of the music. The cue crescendo's going faster and faster as the galley slaves in the film are instructed to row quicker. It's really quite a brilliant idea on Rozsa's part, and by the end of it, leaves even the listener feeling exhausted.
One criticism I have for the score is the long and repetitive Roman fanfare that appears EVERYWHERE in the score. After a listening to the theme a couple of times in various cues, it just gets annoying!
The Miracle And Finale by Miklos Rozsa on Grooveshark
The music takes a dramatic turn when Ben Hur witnesses Jesus Christ, crucified. The cue, Bearing the Cross is a strong orchestral tune and then dramatically switches to Jesus' soft theme. It's quite heart rending and powerful! The ultimate climax is reached in my favorite cues, The Miracle and Finale. It's a perfect ending for a biblical epic soundtrack!

Rating: ****

1 Comment:

  1. Alicia Willis said...
    So glad you covered this one! Ben-Hur is a favorite book, soundtrack, audio drama, and movie of mine!

    I love "Parade of the Charioteers", but my favorite cues are "Marcia Romana", "Salute For Gratus", and all the Roman galley/battle cues.

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