A movie with a biblical story. A movie with biblical proportions. A movie with
quite a few biblical inaccuracies. Despite this, Ten Commandments is one of my favorite movies. Now everyone will be in shock when I say this, but it's a fairly modern and deep movie. It's a movie that uses old style, with new methods. Let's take a look line by line.
Direction- Cecil B. Demille is a overdone, theatrical kind of director, and the result is a theatrical overdone kind of movie. But when the Bible is concerned, that's really the way to do it. Overdone gestures, poetic screenplay, massive sets and thousands of extras make this film a giant in Hollywood's history. Demille pulls it off however with his overblown style and flair. There are a few cringe worthy moments of poorly directed extras, but it generally works. It's overdone style was the director's intent.
So I bet you're wondering how could this possibly be modern? Well it's Demille's amazing effects he used, lavish sets and deep story that makes it modern. Most movies at the time would cut away when the dead sea caves in, or show just a facade of a city, or a backdrop. Demille shows it all. Scenes such as the slaughtering of the newborn or the Passover were fairly intense at the time, and most movies would, no pun intended, pass over them. So like I said, Demille does this all in old theatrical style, but the actual content of the film was fairly advanced for the time.
Charlton Heston- Very few can part the dead sea and you'll believe they just did it. Very few can be Moses. Heston gives a great performance of Moses that seems just like how you picture him when you read it in the bible. Search for someone else to play a better Moses, but I bet it'll be in vain.
Yul Brynner- Cast as Ramses the Pharaoh, he steals the show in his outstanding performance. He's pompous, arrogant, but delivers great lines. He's also very deep, as that he's simply a leader who was determined, just for the wrong cause. He loves his son and his wife, despite the fact that the latter never returns any love to him. He delivers such a great performance, that he almost makes you want him to win. In the end, he won't however, no matter how long he may pray before the mighty falcon.
Anne Baxter-Is the film's 'Beautiful enemy'. She's in the center of the love triangle between Ramses and Moses, the latter of who she is madly in love with. She's plays someone who's self centered, manipulative, power hungry and superficial and she plays it with remarkable ability. She fit's the classic 'Queen of Egypt' model movies strive for back then. I personally would have liked to seen her play Cleopatra. Sure, it may have been a semi-repeat role playing another Egyptian, but "She was Egypt".
Sir Cedric Hardwicke- He plays the first Pharaoh seen in the film, father of Ramses. He does a terrific job in that role, playing a wise, understanding but firm leader. He speaks his line in stage like fashion and is all together convincing. He may have one of the deepest characters, as you will see in the film.
John Derek- All films have their weaknesses, and this film's weakness is John Derek's portrayal of Joshua. Overacting, even on Demille's standards, and poor delivery of his lines makes his performance almost laughable. He brings the film down a little and is probably the worst part of the film. I don't see how he was cast, maybe he thought it would be the day his career is born. As it turns out, it's not that day, Joshua.
Edward G. Robinson- Yes, America's favorite gangster was cast as a Hebrew turncoat, Dathan, who is an informant with 'Rat's ears and a ferret's nose'. Despite people's criticism of his performance, I thought he did a rather good job. He had his moments where I thought he'd say 'Step back Moses, or I'll plug ya, that goes for you too Joshua and the rest of you mugs' but he was still pretty good.
Other Supporting characters- The rest of the cast is pretty good, Yvonne DeCarlo is solid and Vincent Price has a scene stealing performance as Baka, the Master Builder.
Special Effects- Phenomenal. Who needs CGI when you can build the city of Pi-Ramses instead? This coupled with the partying of the Red Sea, the Nile turning to blood, the hail turning the fire, the staff turning into a snake along with countless other effects are amazing to watch. Most old movies would avoid those effects by cutting away-not the Ten Commandments. I'd say it has the best pre-1990's special effects of all time.
Costumes- Breathtaking. The bright and ornate costumes really capture the essence of the time.
Set Design- Incredible. Like I said for the special effects, do you really need Digital effects if you can just do this? Very few movies can rival the massive sets of this film. It's as if you are actually in Egypt.
Musical Score- A joy to listen to. The pompous overblown score fits with the rest of the feel of the movie. Who else wouldn't want to enter and exit a room wit the same fanfare that Ramses does?
All in all, the Ten Commandments is a classic. It is a surprisingly deep film, that uses theatrical style with modern methods. The film is among my favorites. With outlandish sets and costumes, over the top music, a poetic screenplay, outstanding effects, and exceptional acting, this is a film that is great in all regards, and will be enjoyed with all generations, a film worthy of 'the gods'.
So it shall be written, so it shall be done.
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