The combination "hard disk PVR"/"DVD recorder" I bought a few years ago has seemed a useful gadget, even if most of the discs I've recorded "for later," what with not watching many "network" or "cable" shows these days, are old films off of Turner Classic Movies. With the impression that video quality really starts to suffer with more than two and a half hours on one disc, though (suffers more than it does coming through my standard definition cable, anyway), I've avoided recording some really long movies and stashed a few others on the hard disk with the thought that maybe, as with cases from Gone With the Wind
and Seven Samurai
to It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World,
they'll have an "intermission" in the middle and I'll be able to split them between two discs. Before I can do that, though, I have to watch them, but this weekend I devoted the time at last to do that for another one of them. After a few moments' thought, I settled on a notable example of the previous time Hollywood went for "spectacle" to compete, the 1959 production of the "sword, sandal, and scripture" epic Ben-Hur.
Although long enough that I wound up getting through the movie in three separate viewing sessions, it kept my attention. For some reason, I was convinced the musical score was a significant contributor to the experience; I also had the odd feeling I was having trouble applying the actual name of the main character to someone I kept thinking of as just "Charlton Heston." Around the intermission, though, all of a sudden the thought had come back to me that the famous chariot race sequence coming up had been called a clear model for the "podrace" in The Phantom Menace...
This didn't suddenly transfigure the whole experience, much less make it something less than it had been, but I suppose I was looking at the sequence with a new curiosity and able to see the setting-up pageantry and the colour scheme itself as familiar, while still thinking there'd been at least some changes. I also reminded myself of a thought I'd had when I'd watched The Hidden Fortress,
that you can identify influences on all the Star Wars movies in a "positive" or a "negative" light. For all that I was conscious some could
be noisy about proclaiming "this is all real,"
I could also remember supposing earlier in the movie that the "tops" of some establishing shots could have been done with matte paintings. A new thought, though, was to wonder about the intimations those working on the Star Wars movie in production keep managing to toss out to try and link themselves to the three old movies. Drawing on a number
of inspirations may begin to feel a bit different if it comes to seem a work to follow is just obsessed on echoing a fixed number of works themselves once suggested to be "composite."