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 Post subject: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2010 4:20 am 
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The Chariot race in Ben-Hur is nothing short of amazing. The fact that Heston drove his own chariot sure helped things. How many stars would do that today? If this was filmed now, I suspect a lot of it would be made with CGI instead of filming real thing. They just don't make them like they used to. Some call it the best filmed action sequence of all-time. Do you agree/disagree?

Here is a video of the whole Chariot race:


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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 7:56 pm 
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Concur Detective Thorn. However the thought of CGI for it makes me cringe! :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 10:44 pm 
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Yeah, just watch the race scene in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace to see a taste. George Lucas had Ben-Hur in mind when he came up with that.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 5:18 pm 
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I agree that it is the best action scene in cinematic history. I have been fortunate enough to see this movie on the big screen (not when originally released, I'm not that old) and to hear the pounding of the hoofbeats, the crowd's cheers, and see that scene played out larger than life on the screen is wonderful.

P.S. I've read the book, and honestly, the chariot race in the book bored me.....I felt like Lew Wallace was describing every spoke of every chariot...but maybe it has something to do with people not having the visual effects back then when the book was written. Maybe they did not really know what a chariot race would look like and had to have every detail described or something. Anyway, I prefer the movie over the book.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:38 pm 
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I haven't read the book yet, so I can't comment on that. I have no doubt that it's much better put on film though.

Some think that the chariot race is too long, I couldn't disagree more. Through the entire race I'm excited about what's happening on screen. Never a dull second IMO. Even though I've seen it a bunch of times, I'm still glued to my seat, amazed of how well they made it.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:42 pm 
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I agree....even though I know the outcome, it still is almost heart-stopping when Judah almost flies out of the chariot. And it still can make you cringe to see what happens to Messala. Of course, you know me and horses.....horsies, horsies, don't you just love 'em?!?! I am amazed that they could get so many horses to perform so well and look so good at the same time. I don't think the scene is too long at all. I'm glad that it is like it is in real time.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:13 pm 
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The legendary stunt co-ordinator Yakima Canutt deserves a lot of the praise that this scene gets. I don't think it could have been as good without him. Chuck admired the hell out of him, and worked a lot with him and his son.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:30 pm 
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Yes, and as far as I know, Canutt received a wonderful presentation from Chuck-- the bust of a horse, for making him an expert charioteer. I have seen a picture where Chuck is really playing a risky game with those stout horses(a behind-the -scene photo)! He loved this spirited animal.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:05 am 
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This thread is long forgotten I see... Here is something that may interest our friends, though I am not sure if it suits here. But there is noother place where I can put the following link--

http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/circus.html

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 Post subject: Re: The Chariot race in Ben-Hur
PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:24 am 
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Here is a little gift for all my friends here, if you want to read a shot-by-shot analysis of the great chariot-race esequence --

Doubling for Charlton Heston in the race's more hazardous shots was Yakima Canutt's 21-year-old son Joe (shown here in a 1994 interview). Heston had worked for weeks with the second unit crew to master driving his own chariot, adding one horse at a time until he was driving a full team of four. By the time it came to shooting, Joe Canutt said, Heston was as good a charioteer "as any man in the business", and he's in the chariot for quite a bit of the race. But as ever the case in Hollywood, MGM wasn't about to let their star take any foolish chances, and that's where Joe came in.

Keeping Judah Ben-Hur in the chariot turned out to be a pretty near-run thing. Canutt senior had worked out a number of "gags" to punctuate the race with excitement -- wheels disintegrating, chariots crashing, Roman guards and chariot drivers (actually dummies) getting trampled and run over, and so forth. One of them called for Joe Canutt, doubling Heston, to drive his chariot over the wreckage of two others -- actually a short ramp placed in his path and blocked from camera sight by one pile of debris. In concept it was a pretty simple stunt, not particularly designed to stand out in the mayhem.

Joe worked long and carefully with his team before the shoot. He took the horses up and over the ramp one at a time, then in pairs harnessed together, then threes, then all four, then the four harnessed to an empty chariot, and finally all four, the chariot and Joe. At last everybody, human and equine, was comfortable with the stunt.

Here's how the sequence was planned, shot by shot -- each shot, obviously, filmed separately, even on different days, to be assembled later, rather than as one continuous action:I draw on two sources to describe what happened when the next shot was filmed. One is Charlton Heston's autobiography In the Arena; the other is an account I read years ago but can't remember where, and I can quote it now only from memory. Heston says that Yakima Canutt attached a safety chain between his son and the chariot before the shot, but Joe disconnected it after Yak walked away. Heston never learned why; he speculates that maybe Joe didn't want to be shackled to the wreckage if anything went wrong. I think it's also possible that Joe had rehearsed his team thoroughly enough that he simply didn't think the chain was needed. In addition, Yak cautioned Joe to keep the chariot under 35 miles per hour to avoid being bounced out when he went over the ramp.

Marton called "Action!" and the two chariots came round the bend, Joe pacing himself to Messala's chariot galloping beside him. Yak and Marton reflexively yelled "You're going too fast!" -- but of course it was pointless; Joe couldn't have heard them over all the noise at that distance.

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Joe's chariot hit the ramp. In this frame you can see that the horses are just leaping clear on the other side.

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An instant later the team is safely clear and galloping away, but Joe's trouble is just beginning.

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The chariot begins to descend and Joe goes into free fall, hanging for dear life onto the front rail.

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The heavy chariot is still coming down and Joe is almost perfectly perpendicular.

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Now his feet are over, putting him in a back-bend. He's a heartbeat away from either being crushed by the half-ton chariot or having the meat ripped from his bones by the bolts studding the underside. (And hey, look over to the right; see that? Yeah, it's one of Andrew Marton's cameras. I'll bet even the editors never saw it. The camera is on screen for eight frames, one-third of a second -- just long enough to notice if you look that way. But of course nobody ever has.)

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