The Ten Commandments (1956) – Cecil B. DeMille

 

Melodrama and spectacle are the order of the day as I dive back into the Historical genre of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book. DeMille’s remake of his own 1923 is a towering, four hour long epic that boasted top of the line effects (at the time), stellar casting, including Charlton Heston as Moses, Yul Brynner as the Pharaoh, Ramses, Anne Baxter as Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price, and  John Carradine.

Featuring a  towering score by Elmer Bernstein, the film tackles the Old Testament scriptures and expand on them, filling in some of the missing years of Moses with powerful moments, but also with some terrible dialogue. But with star power like this film boasts, it is the entertainment value of the film, by which this movie is judged, and it is very entertaining.

Jaw-dropping in its scale and its design, Heston conveys complete confidence in his performance as Moses, while Brynner is suitably menacing, even as he faces the wrath of god for restraining the chosen people.

From competing for the affections of Nefretiri to betrayals, confrontations, and the supernatural acts of the Hebrew god, the film is pageantry at its finest, swaddled in melodrama and iconic cinematic moments.

It is still a stunning film, though admittedly, it feels more than a little overlong with a four hour run time.

yul

Exiled from Egypt when it is discovered he my be the deliverer that has been prophesied by the Hebrew people, the once Prince of Egypt stumbles into the wilderness and wastelands, where he is confronted by the presence of god, who gives him a divine mission to save his people.

There are confrontations, plagues, and the incredible parting of the Red Sea until Ramses lets Moses and his people go free. To wander the desert, and learn to live with one another, under the commandments that their god sends them.

And while nowadays, you can see the matte lines, and you can figure out how most of the effects were done, it’s still an impressive accomplishment. It paved the way for a number of the epic biblical features to come, a couple of which I’ll be checking out, but it remains unequaled in terms of spectacle and production.

This is definitely something to seem, and while the story is basic, the padding out of the film with other characters makes for some human, of decidedly overly melodramatic, moments.

As mentioned before, I’ve never been a big Heston fan, but I think I can easily classify his performance in this film, as well as that in Planet of the Apes, is probably the finest performance he committed to film.

An interesting tale, majestically portrayed on screen.

charlton-heston-as-moses-the-ten-commandments-1956-paramount

 

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