Tag: charlton heston

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEEND*** #100. Ben-Hur (1959)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.


The golden days of Hollywood loved an epic. They loved a biblical sword and sandals epics the most. And when they wanted to make a biiiig movie in the 50s, they needed a biiiig an actor. An actor who knew no subtlety. An actor who’s most restrained moments would make the sets of this movie look like model miniatures. So when it was time to make this massive, epic tail, with its massive, epic budget, it was time to call in the massive, epic Charlton Heston. The result was a movie so epic and massive, it became the go to comparison for anything of ample size. It became Ben-Hur.

It’s the year 26A.D, and the Roman rule of Jerusalem is getting a little more handsy than it had been until then. Up and coming Roman kiss-ass Messala (Stephen Boyd) returns to the Jerusalem town where he grew up. Leaving as a boy, he returns as the man who will run the show, on behalf of the Emperor. There’s a happy reunion with his childhood friend, the Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur. The happy reunion doesn’t last long. Messala’s ruthless ambition leads to Ben-Hur sent off into slavery for a crime he didn’t commit, while his mother and sister are sent to prison. Swearing revenge, we cut to Ben-Hur several years later, chained to the oar of a Roman ship. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Touch of Evil (1958)

“This isn’t the real Mexico. You know that. All border towns bring out the worst in a country. I can just imagine your mother’s face if she could see our honeymoon hotel”.

In 1941, a twenty-six year old Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in his debut film. Today, Citizen Kane sits atop almost every best of list it’s eligible for. While that film trail blazed now common conventions like non-linear storytelling, non-conventional technical aspects and the use of a completely non-likeable protagonist, its greatest and most endearing qualities more than seventy years later still come down to story, character and performance. Almost two decades later, Welles would deliver another master class in film making. This time story, character and performance would make way for the more technical aspects of innovation with the 1958 film noir, Touch of Evil. Starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and the director himself, Touch of Evil had humble critical and box office beginnings, but has gone on to earn a deserved place amongst Welles’ best.

The incarnation of Touch of Evil being reviewed here is a revised version released in 1998 and opens with a title card stating,

“In 1957, Orson Welles completed principal photography on Touch of Evil and edited the first cut. Upon screening the film, the Studio felt it could be improved, shot additional scenes and re-edited it. Welles viewed this version and within hours wrote a passionate 58-page memo requesting editorial changes. This version represents an attempt to honor those requests and make Touch of Evil the film Orson Welles envisioned it to be”.

This initial treatment by the studio, combined with its original release as the second film on B-movie double feature, shows what little regard the film was given on release. By this time, Welles had spent almost twenty years bucking the system, clashing with studio heads and challenging the conventions of film and story. This relentless tenacity lead to still highly admired classics like Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello. But it also lead to several never completed projects, box office failures and strained relationships with the studios who funded these endeavours. (more…)