I love that they’re trying to sell the new four-disc Ben-Hur
DVD to the religious right, offering to Christian retail outlets a “Ben-Hur Bible Study Guide” by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, the co-chairmen of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. This is just as phony a sales pitch as the original author, General Lew Wallace, calling his book “A Tale of the Christ.” As co-screenwriter Gore Vidal explains on the “making of” doc, Ben-Hur is the story of unrequited love, betrayal and revenge between a Jewish boy and a Roman boy. Rage and bitterness are washed clean at the finale by Christ’s blood trickling into a stream, fine..but Ben-Hur never would have never been made into a film if the character of Judah Ben-Hur had followed the Nazarene’s teachings. If Judah (Charlton Heston) had returned from Jack Hawkins’ villa in Rome and decided to turn the other cheek and forgive Messala (Stephen Boyd) after learning that his boyhood friend had condemned his mother and sister to prison and the scourge of leprosy (instead of doing what he does in the film, which is to challenge and then defeat Messala in the chariot race, which results in Messala being trampled to death by horses), Ben-Hur never would have been greenlit.