October 1st, 2009

krazy koati

King of the wild frontier

I finally saw Ben-Hur, the 1959 version. That's not much of a thing to brag about, although it seems interesting to me because I'm deeply interested in myself and also because this is another of those movies that I got to know very well through its pop cultural reflection. In particular, I got to know it through its SCTV version. I realized I knew all the big plot points fairly well before they turned up in the actual movie, and I think it also resulted in the movie feeling shorter than its actual two-week running time. You know how it is; if you're familiar with something it usually seems to run faster than if it's strange it does. I also realized that bits of the SCTV version were corrupting my expectations of what should happen next, not least in that Ben was inexplicably not portrayed as by Curly Howard, and miscellaneous guards did not deliver one of my favorite exchanges of dialogue. (The governor: ``Seize them!'' The Stooge-inspired guards: ``Yeah, we seez them!'' ``They're right over there!'')

It's not the only movie I first learned through its footprint; for that matter, it's not even the first movie I really learned through SCTV first. The Towering Inferno was another prominent example, and I still haven't seen Ocean's Eleven, any version, while there's an excellent chance my last thoughts before dying, hopefully a long time hence, will be of Maudlin's Eleven. There are others where I have a more diffuse knowledge --- of those Angry, Unlikeable Young Men movies that Britain pumped out in the 60s, for example --- and others where I know they were parodying something very specific but I just haven't come across the original yet.

I suppose it's silly to talk about any of the movies compared to the extraordinarily condensed and deliberately silly versions that filled my mind's place reserved for those titles first. Obviously the real movie has better sets, makeup, costumes, filming, and all that, and many of the scenes are just stunning to watch. And there's this fine sense of being able to sink into a long, carefully developed scene from moviemakers who know what they're doing and why, which no parody is really going to do. Yet I can't help thinking the real Ben-Hur missed a good thing by overlooking the SCTV version's question, ``Did he say lepers or leopards?''

Trivia: The Roman Emperor Commodius tried to rename the tenth month of the year `Herculeus', after one of his many names. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and The Birth Of Modern Golf, Mark Frost. (Although it talks about the greatest game ever played, what they mean by it is golf.)