To escape the edict of Egypt's Pharaoh Rameses I (Ian Keith), condemning all newborn Hebrew males, the infant Moses (Fraser C. Heston) is set adrift on the Nile in a reed basket. Saved by the pharaoh's daughter Bithiah (Nina Foch), he is adopted by her and brought up in the court of her brother, Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). Moses (Charlton Heston) gains Sethi's favor and the love of the throne Princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), as well as the hatred of Sethi's son, Rameses II (Yul Brynner). When his Hebrew heritage is revealed, Moses is cast out of Egypt, and makes his way across the desert where he marries, has a son, and is commanded by God to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery. In Egypt, Moses' fiercest enemy proves to be not Rameses II, but someone near to him who can "harden his heart".Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
When Yochabel is trapped under the stone, her robe's rope belt varies in length. See more »
[wades in the Nile and notices Moses' basket]
Look! There's something here.
Be sure it's not a crocodile!
Bithiah can charm tears from a crocodile.
[Tuya pours water on the frightened maiden's back]
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This film does not end with the credit "The End," but with the written line "So it was written, so it shall be done." See more »
The Prologue and intermission music have been included in the 2004 DVD release. These are taken out on all network TV showings to cut down the length. Also edited out of network showings is an Overture which has also been restored to the DVD release. See more »
So big it's in danger of falling over, but it doesn't
I'm always willing to watch this, and I always enjoy it. Rather than admit 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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