The Ten Commandments (1956) on DVD & Blu-ray, March 29
It’s been a long time since I saw The Ten Commandments (and even longer since I obeyed them); I had totally forgotten that epic films once began with overtures and included intermissions. Following The Ten Commandments Overture, Cecil B. DeMille stands before the audience and ponderously introduces the film.
Beginning with “And let there be light…,” The Ten Commandments is an example of filmmaking on a grand scale—pageantry, drama, costumes, special effects, and every emotion ever felt are packed into three hours and forty minutes of extravagance. Oh, yeah…and then there’s the story of Moses.
By today’s standards (as if there are any), The Ten Commandments is a corny monument to Cecil B. DeMille’s ego. Declamatory, overemotional performances (especially the icky love scenes) speak to the fifty-five years that have passed and the evolution of acting.
Even with its dated dramatics and silly, Hollywood moments (scantily clad dancing girls, a muscled young man swings to the rescue on a rope; a gaggle of giggling girls “bathing”—fully dressed—together, trading quips and romantic woes), The Ten Commandments draws the viewer in with its ancient story.
Its historic setting notwithstanding, some of the best scenes in The Ten Commandments are the soap opera-like exchanges between characters (Moses’ two mothers, Rameses and Dathan, Nefertiri and Memnet, Sethi and Moses); some of the worst are the less-than-convincing love scenes (“Oh Moses, Moses, you splendid, stubborn, adorable fool…”).
The Ten Commandments was DeMille’s last film; it made Charlton Heston a star, and gave nearly everyone in Hollywood a job. It has been fully restored in High Definition and is available in a deluxe six-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo that includes over an hour of new bonus material, a commemorative book, and the 1923 silent version of The Ten Commandments, all in a boxed set that features “an image of the Red Sea, that parts when the box is opened to reveal two tablets,” and loads more goodies.Continued on the next page