Reviews written by registered user
|6 reviews in total|
Well, I won't bother to summarize what unfolds in this excellent suspense film starring the incredibly talented Charles Laughton, since other reviewers above have done so quite nicely, and have also touted the film's good qualities. I just watched my old VHS copy (taped off TV) last night (sort of fuzzy, but better than nothing). Why on earth Universal Pictures does not release this little gem on DVD, which it richly deserves, I will never understand. I am sure many discerning film buffs and Laughton fans would buy it in a New York minute. And, I mustn't forget to comment on how marvellously Rosalind Ivan portrays the wife from hell.
It would seem that I agree with about half of the other reviewers of this film. It HAS been unfairly blasted by Stooges fans because the emphasis is on the fantasy and not on the slapstick humour of the much-beloved trio. Personally, although I enjoyed their antics as a child, I was never a fan of the Stooges and would never put them in the same class as Abbott and Costello, for example. Nevertheless, they prove in this film that they are not bad actors at all. The sets and opulent costumes boost this film considerably, as do the presence of the very dark, traditional elements of European folklore, and I think this movie would have been a GREAT fantasy film if there had been seven dwarfs in it! I would agree that Carol Heiss is not a very good actress, but the character of Snow White does not call for the use of great thespian skills. I think that Patricia Medina makes this movie: she is gorgeous and exudes delicious villainy as the Queen/Witch. She was the major draw for me when I watched this film as a child. Guy Rolfe, as Count Oga, is also very effective, and the siege on the castle well-mounted. Fantasy film fans are bound to like this better than Stooges fans.
I, like many others, love this film. It is one of the greatest ever
made, and most of those who condemn it do so either because they
consider DeMille to have been talentless or because the film does not
stick close enough to the Bible. The latter are generally ignorant of
the research done for the film by Henry S. Noerdlinger (see his very
informative book, "Moses & Egypt: The Documentation to the Motion
Director's style: DeMille's family bible & those found in many 19th-cent. homes were graced by the engravings of Gustave Dore, a French artist of the mid-1800's. His style, like that of the 17th-cent. French painter Poussin, was highly theatrical, with figures being depicted in admittedly unnatural poses, looking as if they were sculpted figures lifted from the frieze of the Parthenon. These artists were depicting larger-than-life events (like the Exodus) & did not wish to show them as mundane, everyday occurrences. DeMille's critics should look at these artists' attention to colour, composition, and exquisite detail, & then compare them to the works of later, more famous artists and try to maintain that the earlier works are inferior. Indeed, they display a level of talent which the later ones either did not possess or chose not to display. It is thus unfair to condemn DeMille's style, as every director has his own, either flamboyant or low-key.
I won't address the question of whether or not Moses existed, but will say that the "Biblical Minimalists" who reject almost everything in the early part of the Torah have a very prejudiced agenda. Eager to destroy the hold that Judaism/Christianity have on people, they do their best to invalidate these religions' foundations. Appealing to questionable anachronisms in the Bible, they try to show that these cast doubt on the whole narrative, even though impartial, creditable scholars have found ample (though often circumstantial evidence) to support the existence of Abraham, Moses, etc. The question of who the Pharaoh of the Exodus was is tied to chronological considerations beyond the scope of this review, but many conservative scholars still put forth Rameses II as the best candidate.
Story: An intoxicating mix of the Bible & somewhat streamlined Egyptian history. The love affair between Moses & Nefretiri as well as the characters of Memnet & Baka were taken from "Prince of Egypt," a novel by Dorothy Clarke Wilson. Some liberties with the Bible are taken: one of them was a virtual necessity. In Ex. 32, when Moses finds his people worshipping the golden calf, he orders his fellow-Levites to slay 3000 of them. A mod. audience could not accept such brutality unless it came from God.. Thus the writers combined 2 incidents: the calf episode & the destruction of Dathan & Abiram, who were indeed swallowed up by the earth in a separate rebellion (Numbers 16). The writers incorporated traditions from the Midrash on Exodus into the film with consummate skill. The prominent role assigned to Dathan comes from such sources, as does the participation of Bithiah in the Exodus.
Performances: Heston & Brynner are superb. Their acting is, at times, rather histrionic, but it should be remembered that in an epic less than grandiose-style acting is not in keeping with the subject matter. Yes, Anne Baxter hammed it up (but less than Jethro's daughters, who gush like lovesick teenagers over Moses), but such minor complaints are eclipsed by the overall lustre of the film, which does not have a single boring minute. Some have said that Edward G. Robinson seems too much like the gangster characters he played in other films. I had never seen these films prior to watching "The 10 Commandments"; so this criticism only applies if one is accustomed to seeing him in such roles.
Costumes: EXCELLENT. Even Moses' red robe with black & white stripes is based on a Jewish trad. which ascribes these colours to the Levite tribe, to which Moses belongs. The Egyptians (except for the priests) did NOT only wear white & were able to produce very diaphanous materials, though not as gorgeous as those seen on screen, but all the jewellery is authentic. Also, the dress of Egyptian queens did not emphasize the breasts, but DeMille was shrewd enough to realize that Anne Baxter's cleavage would attract male audiences.
Sets & Props: VERY accurate: reliefs on treasure city's pylons were inspired by actual 19th Dynasty designs...throne seen in opening where Rameses I condemns all Hebrew male newborns to death is an EXACT replica of one found in Tutankhamun's tomb. Lettering on tablets is authentic Canaanite/Paleo-Hebrew.
Special FX: Still look fantastic, though matte lines can be detected; their surreal look is effective. Use of effects animation to create pillar of fire better than real fire, as the Bib. fire was an unearthly one.
An interesting & racially progressive element in the film is found in scene where Moses presents Ethiopian king & sister to Sethi. In 1956 racist America, it would have been unthinkable to show Moses involved with a black woman. But DeMille managed to suggest something here which would elude viewers unfamiliar with Josephus. In this source, Moses, as general of the Eg. army, cannot capture Saba, the Ethiopian capital, until Princess Tharbis (her name appears in the credits but is not spoken on screen) tells Moses that she will deliver the city to him if he weds her, to which he agrees. In the film, Tharbis (Esther Brown), with a provocative expression, hands a necklace to Moses, saying that he is "wise." Sethi: "It is pleasing to the gods to see a man so honoured by his enemies." "And such a beautiful enemy!" Nefretiri comments. Why is Moses wise? Because he married Tharbis to conquer Saba! And Nefretiri sees her as a rival! In a prejudiced era, DeMille was very daring. So much for accusations of his lacking subtlety! He was really quite progressive!
I think that this film is unfairly maligned. It does not purport to be
an adaptation of the original story, the most famous version of which
was written by Madame Le Prince de Beaumont and published in 1756. This
film is admittedly not as haunting as the version starring George C.
Scott, which was made for TV in 1976 and stuck quite close (as did Jean
Cocteau's artistic masterpiece) to the original French fairy tale. It
should, however, be appreciated for what it is: a glossy Technicolor
fantasy from the producer who brought us the excellent fantasy film
"Jack the Giant Killer," which was released in the same year and
features some of the same actors. It has the same evocative opening,
which shows a story-book opening up and inviting the viewer into its
magical world. The same opening is found in Disney's "Snow White,"
"Cinderella," and "Sleeping Beauty."
I cannot fathom why some viewers say that the sets are "cardboard"; I personally feel that the castle sets are quite convincing and solid-looking. The costumes are also lovely. Granted, Joyce Taylor is not a great actress and not really as pretty to look at as Mark Damon, who plays the duke/beast. I think he delivers a solid performance, although the script hardly gives him the opportunity to show how well he can act, which he most certainly did two years earlier in Roger Corman's horror masterpiece, "House of Usher." There is a great cast of character actors: the ever-slimy Michael Pate and the little-known and under-appreciated Walter Burke, who plays the part of the villain's henchman to creepy perfection. Another asset is the beast make-up created by the legendary Jack P. Pierce, who was the artist behind the monster make-up for the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man (the curse on Eduardo, Mark Damon's character, is actually like that of the one imposed upon Lon Chaney Jr.'s character in the latter film). Finally, we have the requisite happy ending. This is a good family film. Don't expect high art. I am sure the makers of the movie did not set out with that aim in mind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I generally enjoy conspiracy films, because they invariably generate a
great deal of suspense and coax great performances from actors who are
playing people going through a living nightmare. However, after
watching this film for ten minutes, I had a strong suspicion that I
would not like it; nonetheless, because I am a hard-core movie buff, I
decided to stick it out. After a half-hour and then 45 minutes (by
which times the plot holes and unnecessarily confusing plot were all
too evident), I would not have been particularly upset if my VCR had
somehow malfunctioned and I'd lost the rest of the film.
* Spoilers * Warren Beatty, a decent actor (but in my opinion one who never delivers powerhouse performances), plays a reporter who witnesses the assassination of a U.S. senator; and, after learning of the deaths of 6 persons who witnessed his murder, ultimately becomes convinced that his death was part of a huge conspiracy. His boss (played wonderfully by Hume Cronyn) has little faith in him because of his problems with alcohol in the past and because of some of his past investigations which led nowhere. Warren persists, however, and becomes involved in a number of hair-raising experiences in which he is almost killed. A dam bursts and almost drowns him -- we do not see how he escaped the raging waters, but that is a minor quibble compared to his next escape. He finds himself on the yacht of a man who justifiably fears for his life due to his proximity to the senator when he was shot; the yacht blows up and we do not even see Warren's character near a lifeboat or even in the water. It is evident that they are way out to sea; so how on earth did he make it to shore, let alone escape the massive explosion? He does manage to steal a briefcase from a loathsomely corrupt sheriff and finds documents inside, which offer faint hope to the viewer that the movie's pace and depth will pick up. The papers are from the Parallax Corporation and consist of a large number of questions which obviously are geared to determining whether the person seeking admission to the organization would make a good killer. I was able to make out about 10 of the 80 (?) questions and cannot see how Warren or his friend (supposedly an expert at rigging such tests) could possibly fail to answer each question in such a way that the organization would be interested in the applicant. "Do you have a fear of blood," "Do you feel that people are out to get you?" are just some of the questions, to which any semi-intelligent person would know how to respond in order to attract the attention of the recruiter(s). We NEVER do find out what the aims of this organization are, but it seems that they have a thing against powerful politicians who are planning on becoming president. Yet, for some reason, they also blow up a plane, and it is not clear if there is even anyone important on board (or perhaps in my then semi-comatose state I missed something), except good old Warren, who manages to ground it by writing a note on a napkin that there's a bomb on board. I think that this film could have been far more engrossing if the aims of this sinister organization had been made clearer and if so many questions had not been left unanswered.
P.S. Warren dies (big surprise)...Avoid this movie unless you are incredibly patient like me or have a desire to waste just under 2 hours of your life.
This film is the most tasteless, disgusting piece of s*** that I have ever seen. Some films (such as "American Pie") contain equally disgusting scenes but nonetheless make you snicker, although why anyone would want to see "American Pie" more than once is beyond me. If I don't remember too many details about this movie, it is because I made a deliberate effort to purge all images in the film from my mind; but, if I recall correctly, the last scenes of the film focuses on fellatio for shock effect alone without containing the wry (but disgusting) humour that characterizes such obsessions in other films. It is truly depressing that anyone can make money from such a piece of garbage, and Tom Green's success is a testament to the North American public's complete and utter lack of taste. I am truly sorry that he had testicular cancer, but it is also a shame that some benign virus did not affect part of his brain and incapacitate those areas which enabled him to speak on camera.