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BY STEVEN D. GREYDANUSRegister Film Critic
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959) PICK
The Caine Mutiny (1954) PICK
Dumbo (1941) PASS
Iconic performances by two Hollywood legends highlight a pair of classic 1950s’ films, both based on novels, making their Blu-ray debut. Also, an early Disney favorite celebrates its 70th anniversary with new DVD and Blu-ray/DVD editions.
Four years after playing Moses in The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston plays a fictional first-century Jew who has a divine encounter in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. A Vatican film-list honoree, Ben-Hur glancingly traces Jesus’ life from his birth to his hidden life, his public ministry and passion, though his face and voice are never portrayed.
Instead, Ben-Hur is a classic revenge epic leavened with a pious message of forgiveness. Heston stars as Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince whose boyhood friendship with a Roman officer (Stephen Boyd) turns to enmity over politics and betrayal. The three-disc Blu-ray set includes a new feature-length documentary, among many other extras, notably including the worthwhile 1925 silent Ben-Hur.
Humphrey Bogart gives one of his greatest performances in The Caine Mutiny as Capt. Queeg, an old-school Navy officer who takes command of a lax, broken-down destroyer-minesweeper, bringing an appearance of spit-and-polish discipline that gradually gives way to dodgy behavior, obsessive myopia and paranoid delusions.
Then there’s Disney’s Dumbo. Though fondly regarded by many, and justly admired for its surreal “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence, Dumbo strikes me as a slight, cruel, unimpressive effort strangely produced amid an unparalleled string of early masterpieces (Snow White, Fantasia, Bambi, Pinocchio). What happy ending there is is too little, too late.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Ben-Hur: Some action violence. The Caine Mutiny: Psychological pressure and tense themes. Dumbo: Comic accidental inebriation; mildly ominous imagery; tragic themes. All three might be okay for older kids.