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The Ten Commandments (1956)
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The Ten Commandments
Based on the Holy Scriptures, with additional dialogue by several other hands, The Ten Commandments was the last film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The story relates the life of Moses, from the time he was discovered in the bullrushes as an infant by the Pharoah's daughter, to his long, hard struggle to free the Hebrews from their slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.
Scenes from the Film:
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And of course, when one thinks of Moses, it is safe to say the Charlton Heston is the only one that comes to everyone's mind!
I have to add here that I've not been too impressed with Blu-ray or HD TV. It's nice, but I have to admit that I'm no longer that driven with chasing after the latest, newest technology. I just like to sit down and watch a good movie every once in a while and not have to spend a small fortune trying to keep up with all of that. I wasn't expecting too much with this purchase. I was just hoping for a good copy of a great movie to add to our collection.
Having said all that, I have to say this, "WOW!!!" We were totally overwhelmed with the color, the clarity, the sound! It was like watching a brand new movie and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The colors really popped and the clarity was brilliant. I don't know anything about the technology of making a movie over into Blu-ray format, but this is one movie that was actually made better by the change. We were really glad that we paid the extra for this format.
There is one little note that I have to add. (Spoiler alert). I don't know why, but they weren't able to bring that sickly green glow into that "death mist" and it lost a bit of it's scariness just looking like fog moving on the ground. Too bad about that as it's one of those defining moments in the movie that something "supernatural" is occurring. Gotta love this movie though!
Top international reviews
Not being a theologian and finding my spirit willing but my flesh weak ,I shall keep this review brief . The Film,on 2 discs has a lengthy opening introduction by Demille (that you may feel is a bit of a warning regarding 'The evils of Communism') and contains stirring Overture, entracte and exit music (by Elmer Bernstein). The sets ,design, image framing and the Technicolor-Vistavision print are outstanding in clarity,depth and colour range.The acting is certainly....theatrical & may have a rather 'camp' quality for some,used to a style of 'realism' based acting- even in the most far fetched of stories.
I found the first 'half' to be the strongest ,this is before the story requires its various special effects ,which range from the rather unconvincing to the still spectacular. The 2001 edition only extras are 3 lengthy trailers(from '56,'66 & '89).The English version is in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, while the French ,German ,Italian and Spanish language versions are in Mono, there are subtitles in 19 languages.
The picture ratio is '1.78:1 anamorphic' widescreen. Film '222 mins approx'- region 2 .The 2004 'special edition' has a '6 part documentary'- In 2005 a 3 disc edition was released that included DeMilles' original 1923 version ,with hand tinted Red Sea & Exodus sequences & includes documentaries & commentaries to both films.) The 2disc DVD edition from 2013 is the same as I've reviewed but with a different cover image(& usually more expensive!). The bluray edition from 2013 contains a commentary.
Goodness knows how much Cecil B. DeMille’s remake of his silent film (some 30 years previously) cost but I’m willing to bet he got his capital outlay back, in double-quick time.
With the possible exception of Yul Brynner (a bit wooden), the cast is excellent: Charlton Heston as Moses is impressive, Anne Baxter is a terrific, scheming princess, out for what she wants, i.e. Moses, and Edward G. Robinson is suitably slimy as the Hebrew overseer (‘Chief Hebrew overseer’, as he fawningly corrects Yul Brynner).
But leaving aside the casting, the sets and the spectacle are everything, all given a sense of urgency by Elmer Bernstein’s stirring score. The old grease woman, about to be crushed between the moving stones in Sethi’s treasure city, the ‘ping!’ of the ropes as the giant obelisk (or is it a pylon?) is lowered into place and the parting of the Red Sea with the subsequent chase by Pharaoh’s chariots are made all the more compelling by that tremendous music, plus first-rate direction.
This has got to be one of the most spectacular – if not the most – films of the 20th Century.
A great film to pass a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, get some snacks in and just while away a few hours enjoying a classic piece of overdone American cinema, classic!
The restoration appears to be of a high standard and the clarity and colour are what one would expect. I would imagine that to fully appreciate
this film a viewing at a good cinema would do real justice to this famous production. The only extra items are three trailers - 1956, 1966 and 1989.
Of these the 1956 original has the most interest. A documentary on the making of the film would be a useful addition in the future.
Sitting in his office, with the aid of a wicker basket, a Van Dyke portrait, two stone tablets and a Bible he occasionally bashes, De Mille pitches "the greatest adventure story ever put between the covers of a book!" He solemnly assures us that Heston was cast for his resemblance to Michelangelo's statue of Moses and to prove it, he even shows us a photograph of the actor standing next to it (they look nothing alike!). One of McCarthy's staunchest Hollywood allies in the fifties anti-communist witch-hunts, he goes on to draw none-too-subtle comparisons between the tyranny of Pharaoh and the un-named forces of dictatorship that threaten us 'even to this very day'(the film even has Pharaoh paraphrase Karl Marx at one point), then promptly switches to plugging the sex and spectacle with the kind of wanton abandon that only the highest-minded puritans can muster; "Moses is one of the world's greatest human beings - and human he was to the point of SIN! And holy to the point of seeing God." Ever the showman, he even pops out from behind the curtains just before the film itself starts to give us the same spiel in case we missed the point and inform us that "The picture runs three hours and thirty-nine minutes; there will be an intermission."
After such a relentless barrage of hyperbole, disappointment would seem inevitable, but unlike most of De Mille's films, The Ten Commandments stands up remarkably well. Filling in the gaps in the Bible's version of events with lust, treachery and other soap opera staples, it is the complete antithesis of the `think man's epics' that followed in the Sixties. The dialogue is declamatory, the style overtly theatrical, often recoursing to striking tableaux reminiscent of the Biblical pageants of Victorian era. Aside from Edward G. Robinson's corrupt overseer, the performances are painted in broad strokes, with Anne Baxter emoting something rotten, Brynner effortlessly stealing every scene with his inate arrogance and Heston, his hair getting whiter every time he has a chin-wag with God, a square-jawed and solemn All-American Deliverer. Even John P. Fulton's Oscar-winning special effects show their age as well as their matte lines. It would be almost absurdly easy to tear it to pieces were it not for the fact that De Mille's implicit belief in what he put on the screen enables him to carry it off with considerable panache. This is an audience picture on a grand scale, and great fun too.
The colour is almost as superb as the original VistaVision Technicolor, the print perfect apart from some slight occasional negative damage in the top right-hand corner of the frame. More hokum than holy it may be, but with a terrific cast and, even now, a genuine sense of wonder to its set-pieces, The Ten Commandments delivers nearly four hours of great entertainment. And the parting of the Red Sea is still one of the great movie moments, matte lines or not. Enjoy!
Sadly, the initial release of the film (distinguishable by its cover of the film's poster art of Moses smashing the tablets with a red border at the bottom of the cover) only includes three trailers for the film as extras. Of the three DVD releases of this title so far, the 2006 50th anniversary edition is by far the best, including a documentary and audio commentary about the making of the film and, better still, De Mille's original and very different silent version, which treats the story of Moses as a spectacular prologue to a modern day story. Since Amazon have a tendency to move reviews of different editions around on their site and this review may well end up gracing the wrong edition, it's the 3-disc edition which doesn't have the poster art of Moses smashing the tablets but instead has a photo-montage cover dominated by an image of Heston's Moses with his arms outstretched.
Unfortunately, the European Blu-ray suffers from Paramount's policy of dropping extras from their international Blu-ray releases - while the US region-free three disc Blu-ray offers audio commentary and three trailers, and the boxed set also includes the silent version and an extended 73-minute version of the making of documentary (all in rather silly novelty packaging in the shape of two stone tablets inside the box!, the UK release only offers the commentary and trailers - and some European territories only got the film itself with no extras.
Recent remakes (was there one in 2007?) have failed miserably. That one I mentioned: I can't even remember who starred, how they did the plagues, the Crossing of the Red Sea - nothing. The fact is: myths, legends, Biblical stories, Ancient Histories - the film industry's adaptations haven't improved one jot. Even the relatively enjoyable Gladiator fell down on what for me was CGI effects cobbled together by some techno-moron who'd just been hired straight from the lobotomy clinic. Cecil.B.De Mille knew what he was doing.
This version of the film is excellently restored and is even better than the version I saw. If you have never seen it before it is a must see from the glory days of cinema back when it was king of entertainment and a whole afternoon was spent being thrilled by the latest films. In the true spirit of the times this version has even kept the intermissions (used to buy popcorn back in the day).
I would highly recommend it for those who haven't seen it or want to watch it again as it was meant to be seen.
Some my find it a bit long and 'drug out' in parts, but that was the detail used in great films from the same time period. Character portrayal was also a prominent focus.
The special effects were good for the time but those used to today's standards may feel slightly cheated - but with no real reason.
A large screen is essential but mush of the 'feeling' passed to the viewer gets lost from the days of the big screen movie era.