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Film / Ben-Hur (1907)

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Ben-Hur is a thirteen minutes-long silent film from 1907. It is the first ever screen adaptation of the Lew Wallace novel of the same name and features William S. Hart, who would later become a major star of cowboy movies, as Messala.

See also the 1925, 1959 and 2016 versions of the story.

This film has the examples of:

  • Demythification: The film omits all that Jesus stuff, which might be slightly missing the point, seeing how the novel was subtitled, "A Tale of the Christ."
  • The Mockbuster: This was an unauthorized adaptation that provoked a successful lawsuit by the book's copyright holders. Silent film blogger Fritzi Kramer makes the case that, as a low-budget production meant to ride on the coattails of a more famous property (in this case, the book and its authorized stage adaptations), it should be regarded as an early example of mockbuster.
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  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film runs for only thirteen minutes. How do you cram Ben-Hur into only thirteen minutes? Well, you omit the backstory with Ben-Hur and Messala entirely, you cover with a single title card the whole section with Ben-Hur as a galley slave who is eventually adopted by Arrius, you omit Ben-Hur's romance with Esther, and you end the movie with the chariot race.
  • Time Skip: The film skips over the whole time in which Ben-Hur is in a Slave Galley, presumably because it would be too expensive to film. Instead, we get intertitles just mentioning that it happened.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ben-Hur's mother and sister are still arrested, but their fates afterwards are never mentioned.