Cecil B. DeMille
Sound pretty heavy? Itís biblical, baby!
An epic in the truest sense of the word (it makes TROY look like a music video), THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is one of those movies that you probably take for granted. I know Iíve seen it growing up on TV during Easter, but I donít think Iíve truly ever watched it until now. Yes, itís a wee bit cheesy, the acting a little stilted, the effects obviously fake, but that doesnít stop director Cecil B. DeMille from telling this story effectively and telling it on a grand scale.
The production values in this film are insaneóginormous sets, thousands of extras, and shooting locations spanning the globe. The cast is equally impressive; Charlton Heston gives a tour de force performance that makes the movie, Yul Brenner brings a regal charisma to a repetitive and frustrating villain, and heck, even a non-scary Vincent Price shows up! The acting combined with the technical filmmaking is what elevates the story from some old Bible tale into a true cinematic experience. The parting of the Red Sea sequence still gives me chills (and I recently watched a huge monkey fight three T-Rexes.)
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS does take its sweet storytelling timeóitís two hours before Moses even gets to the burning bush. Itís not a flick youíre gonna pop in on a bored Friday night, but if want to make an event out of it once a year or so, sit down with the family and have an old fashioned good time at the movies.
Cecil B. Demille actually directed this older version as well. And for a silent movie itís also pretty epic, over two hours with an equally large production. (The parted Red Sea is made of Jello!) The first hour is the original story from Exodus; however, the second half is a narrative set in modern times (1920ís) that focuses on a family who learns the importance of the Ten Commandments. Itís an interesting, well-crafted film, if not a little preachy and schmaltzy, and definitely not what I was expecting. Silent films are really a different kind of movie, so if youíre into the old-old-school cinema, youíd no doubt enjoy this one. (But be warned, two hours is a long time for a silent movieÖat least for me).
Commentary by Katherine Orrison: An incredible commentary! Orrison spent seven years with the producers, researching the film and working on a book about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. And this lady knows everything having to do with this movie. She doesnít let up for four hours, covering everything from the technical production to stories from the set to biblical history, and much moreóand doing it all in a friendly, entertaining fashion. This is what all commentaries should be.
Disc 2: The great commentary track continues on the second disc, as well as:
Six-Part Documentary (37:36): As the title suggests, these are featurettes focusing on the actors, locations, score, DeMille and more. Each one has interviews with people from all aspects of the production, from Charlton Heston to nameless extras. Very comprehensive and worthwhile.
Newsreel: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS Premiere (2:24): A quick clip from an old news program that covers the filmís star-studded New York premiere. I enjoyed it, if only because it shows you how much things havenít changed in Hollywood in the last 50 years; famous people love themselves and PR people love to kiss ass.
Trailers: The original previews from 1956 and 1966, as well as one for the 1989 re-release.
Commentary by Katherine Orrison: Another interesting track from this scholar of DeMilleís work. Just like the 1956 version, Orrison knows a lot about all aspects of the film and obviously loves it, but sheís also not afraid to point out some problematic parts. I appreciate honesty in a commentary.
Hand-tinted Footage of the Red Sea Sequence (14:57): A slightly colorized version of the parting of the Red Sea. Nothing special, but it does make me hungry for strawberry Jello.