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Nobody ever wants to see a movie more than once because the quality and
charm of the movies of today are just not enough
to coax you to. But every once in a while there comes a movie which,
never lets you take your eyes off the screen for the full length of its
feature and secondly,makes you want to watch it over and over again without
boring you. Not only that, the more times you watch it, you feel that you
missed something the last time. Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is
that kind of a movie. There have been many movies made on the topic of this
Hebrew born prince of Egypt, but none compare to the way in which it has
been portrayed in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
There are a number of reasons for that:
1. When casting the role of Moses, Charlton Heston was chosen above all others including Bert Lancaster, not because of his knowledge of the Bible, but of his striking Physical resemblance to Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses especially the facial structure not to mention the stout build of a prince.
2. The sets for the film were specially designed and the splendour of ancient Egypt in all its glory was recreated especially for this movie.
3. The role of Rameses II was given to Yul Brynner after DeMille observed his magnificent performance as the King of Siam in Rodgers & Hammerstein's THE KING AND I, confirming that he is well suited for a stubburn and malificent heir to the Egyptian throne.
It was not only Heston as Moses who made this movie a success, but all the elements that came together, the cast of thousands, the special effects,the costumes, the sets and most of all the simply unbelievable "parting of the red sea".
It is a wonder why this movie only received one oscar; that of the Special effects, yet I think it deserved alot more. It did not even strike at the box office. Even then it never fails to enchant millions, no matter what religion they follow. Movies like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and it success in the hearts of millions, shows quite clearly that a movie, in order to be loved by millions the world over, does not necessarily have to strike gold at the box office.
To watch this film, you don't have to believe in God, but if you believe in good triumphing over evil and freedom from slavery of foreign masters, then this is the movie for you.
It doesn't get any better than this. You can count on this perennial
favorite to show up every Easter just as you can count on "A Christmas
Carol" during the yuletide season. The daddy of all contemporary religious
instruction, 1956's "The Ten Commandments" is blockbuster spiritual
entertainment in every way, shape and form, as Cecil B. DeMille depicts the
life of Moses from his birth to slavery to Mt. Sinai in grandiose,
reverential style. And what a life!
This was the first movie I ever saw at the drive-in. I was only 6 at the time but I can remember the neighbors taking me to see this, snuggled up in pajamas and stuffed in the back seat. The parting of the Red Sea waters, the turning of the staff to a viperous snake, the green-colored pestilence of death seeping into the homes of every first-born, the creation of the tablets, the burning bush, the booming narrative. I sat in absolute silence and wonderment. This is my first remembrance of any kind of movie-making and the Oscar-winning visual effects and vivid pageantry are still pretty amazing, even by today's standards.
Charlton Heston, the icon of biblical story-telling, still towers over anybody who has ever TRIED to played Moses before or since. Stalwart and stoic to a fault, he possess THE look...cut out of pages of my old religious instructions book....the look that radiates magnificence and glory...the look of a man who has definitely seen God. His commanding stature and voice with its slow, deliberate intonation is eerie and unmatched. Yul Brynner portrays Ramses II as if he were the King of Siam in Egyptian pants. Nobody poses or plays majestic like Yul. He's forceful, regal, imperious...everything a biblical foe should be. Anne Baxter as the tempting Nefretiri, Queen of Egypt, borders on total camp in her role, her stylized line readings and breathy allure is laughable now, with posturings and reaction shots not seen since Theda Bara. But who cares? Baxter provides the most fun and its her florid scenes that I now look most forward to whether she's throwing herself at the totally disinterested Moses or verbally sparring with Ramses, slyly pushing his emotional buttons. She alone puts the "k" in kitsch. The rest of the huge cast is appropriately stiff and solemn.
DeMille's 1923 original version of "The Ten Commandments" is hardly subtle as well, but still impressive and certainly worth a look. In the 1956 remake, DeMille organizes a cavalcade of thousands to lend authenticity to the massive exodus scenes, while the ultimate picture-perfect frame for me is the three beautiful slave extras posing exotically and dramatically on a rock in front of a vivid blue-gray backdrop of furious, threatening clouds as Moses parts the sea. That vision alone is one for the books.
Whenever I am tempted to break a commandment or embrace that golden calf, I know I'll always have to answer to Charlton glaring down from Mt. Sinai ready to throw those heavy tablets at me for my transgression. Charlton not only sets you straight, he makes you BELIEVE!
"The Ten Commandments" is a milestone film. For some, those of us in
their 50's or older, it represents the end of an era: Some call it "The
Golden Age of Hollywood"; the beginning of the end of the studio
system; and the end of a period in which the real founders of the
"public art" took, or began to take, their final bows -- DeMille,
Zukor, Goldwyn, Selznick, and others.
For those of us who saw "The Ten Commandments" on the big screen and in one of the now extinct gilded movie palaces of yesteryear, the picture holds special memories. There is a sense of nostalgia that accompanies any new viewing of this one-of-a-kind Victorian pageant. For many, I'm sure, the nostalgia extends beyond the film itself.
There were problems in the mid-fifties, as in every decade since the real Moses came down from Mount Sinai. Polio, the continuing menace of poverty, the material and spiritual separateness of what we called "colored people", Communism, etc. But . . . there were virtues too, many reflected in the writing and performances of "The Ten Commandments": Virtues like courage, strength of character, personal honor, and endurance were paramount (no pun intended). The biggest problem in schools was students chewing gum in class. Today, it's students "shooting-up" in parking lots or shooting down their classmates in the halls. . . America had an identity then.
DeMille's vision was, always, of "an ideal". He painstakingly produced authentic looking packages in which to wrap his vision -- embellished by the "glitz" of what was, then, the "ideal" Hollywood portrait: Bluer than blue skies; shimmering, jewel-encrusted costumes; out-sized architecture; dramatically convenient thunderbolts; and perfectly lovely female leads, with make-up invariably and predictably un-smudged. DeMille gave his audience what they expected from an "A" picture. He wasn't interested in realism. His idea was to reinforce values he'd learned from his parents and his brother (a noted playwright) in a dramatic format which could be "felt" by young and old, alike . . . more a reverence for time-honored principles than the analytical, ironic, and questioning approach dominant in the films of today. There was in the 50's and the 40's a more amicable attitude toward "orthodoxy" -- in all its forms. Hence, the overwhelming popularity of every DeMille production released during that period.
After fifty years, "The Ten Commandments" is still impressive visually, dramatically, and especially in terms of the intensity of its convictions (reflected in all the biographies of the principals) . . . something which cannot be said of many similar big-budget pictures of the same era.
One day, someone may attempt a re-make. Expect that it will be visually impressive and less "stagy". But . . . expect, as well, that it will be punctuated with the obligatory mandates of political correctness; an uncertainty about its message; and a healthy dose of Twenty-First Century cynicism. It will be more "realistic" to be sure, but far less "authentic" -- like a perfume ad, physically attractive, but without a "heart".
Cecil B. DeMille was a motion-picture producer-director whose use of
spectacle attracted vast audiences and made him a dominant figure in
Hollywood... He was successful in a genre - the epic - that he made
definitely his own, until William Wyler came along three years later
with "Ben Hur."
In his first epic role, Charlton Heston is cast as Lord Moses, prince of Egypt, son of the pharaoh's sister...
As a true prince, he saves a slave's life; as a great prince, he gives the priest's grain to the slaves and one day in seven to rest; as a man of justice, he confronts Nefretiri with a piece of Hebrew cloth, the key to his origin; as a warrior and in excellent physical condition, he kills a tough and cruel master builder; as a courageous Hebrew, son of slaves, he tells the pharaoh: "It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage, but if I could free them, I would!" As a man of prowess, he shows his latest methods of combat when he takes on the shepherds and routed them; as God's torch, he proves to be the Deliverer of the Hebrews, their prophet and leader; as the Lawgiver of the Covenant, he is the founder of the community; and as interpreter of "The Ten Commandments," he is an organizer and legislator...
Yul Brynner is superb as Rameses, the rival of Moses... His arrogance and swaggering snobbery are well represented... Brynner delivers an intelligent cynical role... Regarding himself as divine, he rejects the demand of this unknown God and responds by increasing the oppression of the Hebrews...
Anne Baxter is Nefretiri, the sensual princess who leaves her scar upon Moses' heart... Nefretiri is beautiful as a jewel, and her eyes green as the Cedars of Lebanon... For Moses, she is always ready to lie, to kill and betray... She is selfish in her life as certainly in her love...
Edward G. Robinson plays Dathan, the chief Hebrew overseer who confessed to Rameses: "Give me my freedom and I'll give you the scepter. Give me the water girl Lilia and I'll give you the princess your heart's desire." As a treacherous overlord, he charges to the people yelling: "Go where? To drown in the sea?"
Yvonne De Carlo plays Sephora, the midnight shepherdess to whom Moses is wed... Sephora couldn't fill the emptiness of Moses' heart, but promised not to be jealous of the memory...
John Derek is Joshua, the stone cutter, who is totally convinced that Moses is God's Messenger...
Debra Paget plays the delicate flower who quench the thirst of the working slaves... For her the hour of deliverance will never come...
Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays Sethi, the mighty Pharaoh, whose words to his son mark great significance: "Who would take a throne by force that he has earned by deeds?"
Nina Foch plays Bithiah, pharaoh's sister, who discovers the basket in which Moses has just floated down the Nile...
Vincent Price plays Baka the sadistic, covetous, murderous whip-wielding slave-driver...
"The Ten Commandments" is filled with tremendous special effects: Moses's staff turns to a snake; Moses turning the Nile to blood; the Passover of the Angel of Death striking all the Egyptian first-born; the tremendous pillar of fire which halts Rameses' men; the Exodus from Egypt; the parting of the Red Sea; and the delivery of the "Laws of life, and right, and good, and evil."
The relationship between God and man is the powerful drama in our world... Moses is 'every man,' in his pride and humility, in his courage and prowess, in his love and hatred, in his weakness and confusion,in his conduct and ability...
DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" is a moving story of the spirit of freedom rising in a man under the divine inspiration of his Maker... It is a remarkable spectacle with great music, filled with exceptional setting and decor...
The parting of the red sea! The confrontation at Mount Sinai! This movie is full of spectacular scenes and images! De Mille truly was a great filmmaker. His powerful imagination is evident in the Ten Commandments. This is his masterpiece. It carries you along on an epic adventure that is as big as the old testament. It captures the ancient, epic feel of the original Bible story. It has several stunning performances that could have easily been cheesy and fake, but are convincing and fascinating. Some say that the dialog is campy. I don't think so. I've seen this movie many times and have never thought so. It's nothing like the terrible dialog in Plan 9 From Outer Space from the same decade. The romance may be a cliché now, but it was quite original when it first came out and is still interesting. I personally don't like romance, so the fact that I wasn't bothered by this one is really saying something. This marvelous story is wonderfully told by De Mille and I would strongly recommend it.
What a fantastic movie to climax DeMille's illustrious career.
Charlton Heston, king of the biblical epics, shines brightly as Moses, the one time Egyptian Prince, who now carries staff and perm in order to work Gods will and free his enslaved people from bondage.
Yul Brynner, in what I believe to be his finest turn before the camera plays Rameses the Pharoah who's hateful relationship with Moses spans the entire epic. He is charismatic and shows off the arrogance of a stubborn Pharoah to perfection. This is indeed a film stealing performance.
The beautiful Anne Baxter is at her sultry best as Nefretiri, the woman who would be queen to Rameses, but a slave in love to Moses. However the character is complex and I certainly had trouble in deciding who's side she was on in this epic battle of good verses evil. In the beginning she claims not to care for Moses' discovered background and is willing to be with him no matter what, however as the film progresses she does nothing but ridicule him and belittle him in true anti-semitic fashion.
Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price, John Derek, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Yvonne De Carlo, Nina Foch, John Carradine, and Debra Paget all lend fine and memorable support, to an already colourful and breathtaking experience.
Incidentally it is worth mentioning that so convincing was Martha Scott in her role as Moses' mother Yochabel, that she was given the chance to play Charlton Heston's mother again in the later epic Ben-Hur.
Another interesting fact is, it was Charlton Heston's own voice who spoke the words of God. It was Heston's own idea that to hear God would be to feel God from within, which is why he thought it would be interesting to hear His voice as his own.
A remake of DeMille's earlier screen adaptation of the fine book of Exodus, many can see why this film ranks as his ultimate achievement. The sets were lavish and the story handled with suitable reverence and dignity.
People today often make the mistake of comparing older films like this to the modern epics of today with regards to their effects and they quite wrongly categorize them as inferior. Today anyone can create CGI images on their PC. Even my three year old daughter can make something look convincing with a mouse and a keyboard and although these effects are great, people have to remember that CGI was not available in 1956.
Okay there are a few obvious matte backdrops used here, but to achieve the effects they did nearly fifty years ago was an outstanding and impressive feat which took talent and knowledge. I tend to look upon these effects as superior because it took the use of mans own brain to bring them about. The human brain is the best computer available, yet one seldom used in todays world. So please take this on board before you slam The Ten Commandments for it's "cheap and nasty" look as one reviewer called it.
This movie is ALMOST faultless, even the length is forgivable as I was so engrossed, I hardly notice the time passing.
One fact that did rouse my curiosity was Moses' appearance throughout the film. I know he went to speak to God at the burning bush, but did he really have to stop off at the salon on the way back? Or did God appear to Moses complete with curling tongs and hair dryer? "Just a little off the top Oh Lord."
And why did Moses seem to age more than everyone else? It seemed like he went from a youthful dark to everyones favourite Santa in the space of a week.
This aside, this film is a fantastic piece of cinema and must rate as a personal favourite of all fans of Biblical epics.
When I was 10 years old I saw The Ten Commandments in the the theater
which is the only place it really should be seen. At the time I thought
it was the greatest film ever. All that splashy color cinematogaphy and
eye filling spectacle. The guy that put this together is some kind of
special genius. Then I grew up.
Today in a lot of quarters this and other DeMille sound films are viewed as pretty high camp. Especially those that touch on a religious theme. It's that dialog and The Ten Commandments longer than any other of his films has more of it. People talking some of that high falutin' nonsense, together with a good mixture of sex.
What a lot of people fail to remember is that before Cecil B. DeMille came to Hollywood he was an actor and playwright on Broadway. He learned his trade at the feet of David Belasco, the premier Broadway producer/playwright of his day. In that Victorian/Edwardian era, ALL the actors, in Belasco plays especially spouted that stuff. I recall Anne Baxter saying that Moses spurned her like a strumpet. How many people do you know who use the word strumpet in their every day conversation? Or Yvonne DeCarlo saying to Charlton Heston that he Moses is God's torch to light the way to freedom and that by the way she loves him?
DeMille made one great casting decision in getting the only actor who could play Moses and make it believable. This indeed was Charlton Heston's career role and as he said in his autobiography if you can't make a career out of the lead in two DeMille pictures it ain't happening.
One other member of the cast Edward G. Robinson as Dathan loved this picture. Robinson had been dropping in star status since the late Forties and was now doing mostly B films. DeMille, whose rightwing politics Robinson despised, gave him this part and Robinson's career got a big shot in the arm. Robinson was grateful and gave him full credit in his unfinished memoirs. Most of the last half of The Ten Commandments is a running verbal battle between Heston and Robinson who is trying to keep some kind of control. Robinson is almost like the leader of a company union with the Hebrew slaves as members and Robinson sure enjoys the perks of office.
The first half of the film is the sex part, hovering over all the biblical jargon. DeMille used an old gambit of his, two men in a rivalry over a woman. It worked in previous films like Northwest Mounted Police, Reap the Wild Wind, Unconquered and now here. Anne Baxter is a royal princess promised to the next Pharoah designate. But who will Sir Cedric Hardwicke designate. Charlton Heston his nephew or Yul Brynner his son? Anne Baxter has Nefretiri has both these guys hormones in overdrive. She favors Moses, but then Moses gets a higher calling.
Though he was no director of actors and his sense of drama was generations old, DeMille was a firm believer in two things, fill the screen and make the films move. 50 years later the parting of the Red Sea will still make one gasp. It's not just publicity hype when The Ten Commandments is advertised with a cast of thousands, that is thousands you're seeing on that screen.
Elmer Bernstein wrote the musical score for The Ten Commandments one of his first. He credited DeMille with teaching him how to write musical scores for film that underscore movement. This score brought him his first real notice as a film composer and he certainly became one of the best.
Given the computer technology available today, one can only imagine what Cecil B. DeMille could create today. Of course he'd insist on some of the same writing, but then again without it, it wouldn't be a DeMille picture.
What was the Academy of Motion Pictures thinking in 1956? Outrageous
that 10 Commandments lost to Around the World in 80 Days.
The entire cast should have been nominated for Oscars. Here is how I see it: Best Actor: Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner
Best Actress: Anne Baxter
Best supporting actor: Edward G. Robinson,Cedric Hardwicke John Derek, Vincent Price. Best Supporting Actress: Nina Foch, Martha Scott, Judith Anderson, Debra Paget.
Shockingly, no one in the stellar cast received acting nominations. Only the lord knows why.
Yes, as my rabbi pointed out many years ago, the alleged romance between the Egyptian queen and Moses was overplayed. However, it can't take away from the magnificent acting and quality of this totally absorbing movie.
They just don't make movies as great as this one anymore. They'd never have actors and actresses to replace the above great people.
In 1956, Brynner did win the best actor Oscar for The King and I. He was far better here. Though, the award should have gone to Kirk Douglas for Lust for Life. Douglas losing, Ten Commandments losing, any message to be learned here? As for the film itself, it should serve as a pre-requisite for those in the industry who wish to make biblical epics. The sets were absolutely lavishing. I guess that opulent would be the best word to describe them. Who can ever forget the dialogue? Remember those princely plots. What alliteration! They just don't open the Red Sea like that anymore.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When will Paramount Pictures re-release the 1956 movie The Ten
Commandments to movie theaters? I know that the movie is shown on
television and is on DVD, but this epic and incredibly successful movie
is meant for the theater. Besides having a great cast, the movie tells
a great story and tells it well. This movie will resonate with today's
audience. Today's audience would enjoy watching Charlton Heston, Yul
Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, John Derek, Debra Paget, Edward
G. Robinson and the others in the cast and would greatly enjoy the
finale, including the parting of the Red Sea and the creation of the
actual Ten Commandments. Technologically, the movie compares favorably
with today's movies. Today's audience would respond favorably to the
rich colors by Technicolor and to the music by Elmer Bernstein. In
addition, the movie will help educate a new generation about events in
history that have had a profound and lasting impact on the world. It
will introduce the audience to powerful and memorable characters such
as Moses, Ramesses, Sethi, Nefreteri, Bithiah, Aaron and Dathan as well
as provide a glimpse of ancient Egypt. The scene where Moses confronts
Ramesses and demands, "Let my people go!" is iconic and will definitely
make an impression on today's audience. Today's audience will
appreciate Anne Baxter's powerful performance. Why keep this movie in
DVD land? Let it spread its wings on the wide screen in theaters for
all to marvel.
Watched this movie again and again this movie warrants only superlatives. GREAT story, GREAT cast, GREAT acting, GREAT special effects, GREAT costumes, GREAT EVERYTHING. This movie is one of the greatest epics ever produced by Hollywood. The scenes with Yul Brynner and E. G. Robinson and Charlton Heston are iconic; the scenes between Mr. Heston and the beautiful Anne Baxter are cinematic gems. Moreover the story is told in a straightforward way giving the movie the continuity it requires to stay on track, which is essential for a movie that is almost four hours long. Moses was a hero, Rameses his nemesis and Nefeteri the woman who had and then lost the man she loved, a Hebrew man named Moses.
The acting is stagy, but the story is great, and Charlton Heston IS Moses. This is Charton Heston's greatest role. He is what makes this movie work. Heston gives one of the greatest performances in the history of Hollywood. Whether as the prince of Egypt, or as a slave, or as a shepherd, or as a leader and a prophet, Charlton Heston is the central player in this story. Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, E. G. Robinson, etc., are great in their supporting roles too, but this is Charlton Heston's movie. This movie conveys the intensity of a time when a people held in cruel bondage were soon to be freed and were soon to be led by someone whose emergence onto the scene is so improbable as to confound everyone around him. For who was Moses? Was he an Egyptian posing as a slave? Was he a Hebrew masquerading as an Egyptian prince? Was he a prophet? Or was he an opportunist, using the plight of the Hebrews to gain a following and thereby confront and defeat his rival Rameses? The movie raises these questions. Now the movie may not be historically accurate, but that's not important. What IS important is the story this movie tells, which is about a man who is on a mission to liberate an entire people from the shackles of slavery and sacrifices everything - wealth, power, the love of Pharoah's daughter - to accomplish what he sets out to do - and does it.
There are some critics who make fun of this movie for its stagy acting and stodgy story. Well, this is complete balderdash. Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston were never better and Anne Baxter is positively beautiful. The movie is a story about liberation, redemption and hope. It's about people who were led from the house of bondage and became a nation, guided by the great and profound prophet, Moses. That this movie is remembered over fifty years after its release is proof enough of its timelessness.
I'm always willing to watch this, and I always enjoy it. Rather than
that there is something wrong with my taste, then, I've come to the
conclusion that it's actually rather good. It clearly has class, and
spectacle. Perhaps it has other virtues as well.
Say what you will about De Mille's stagy style: it fits the Old Testament. Whereas "The Prince of Egypt" went soft and new-agey when it came to the crunch, De Mille never lets us forget the harsh world events are taking place in. With a powerful and capricious god glaring at everyone all the time, it's not surprising that people - even pagans - take to talking in speeches. (The speeches are in an attractive, flowery style that isn't biblical but has the same aesthetic standards as some biblical writing.) And the god really has some Old Testament flavour. Everyone is terrified of him, and for perfectly rational reasons would rather pretend that he doesn't exist. This gets tiresome after a while. You'd think that after watching the Red Sea part everyone would have been willing to admit that Moses courted SOME kind of supernatural influence. On the other hand, you'd be a mug to trust this influence too far.
Possibly the best thing about the movie is the way it manages to divide our sympathies without weakening them. Yes, we're on the side of the Israelites. But it's also hard not to be on the side of the Egyptians. The old Pharaoh is probably the most likeable character on display and the young Pharaoh, while he has his flaws, is a nice enough fellow done in by unfortunate circumstances. Moses gains our empathy early and keeps it even when his beard has turned to marble. Only the minor characters are villains - and they're fun, too.
Of course, I say all this knowing full well that the entire film is, at the same time, completely ridiculous. Well, what can I say. It's yet another instance of a general law. Simple sincerity can sometimes spin straw into gold.
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