It doesn't get any better than this. You can count on this perennial favorite to show up every Easter just as you can count on "A Christmas Carol" during the yuletide season. The daddy of all contemporary religious instruction, 1956's "The Ten Commandments" is blockbuster spiritual entertainment in every way, shape and form, as Cecil B. DeMille depicts the life of Moses from his birth to slavery to Mt. Sinai in grandiose, reverential style. And what a life!
This was the first movie I ever saw at the drive-in. I was only 6 at the time but I can remember the neighbors taking me to see this, snuggled up in pajamas and stuffed in the back seat. The parting of the Red Sea waters, the turning of the staff to a viperous snake, the green-colored pestilence of death seeping into the homes of every first-born, the creation of the tablets, the burning bush, the booming narrative. I sat in absolute silence and wonderment. This is my first remembrance of any kind of movie-making and the Oscar-winning visual effects and vivid pageantry are still pretty amazing, even by today's standards.
Charlton Heston, the icon of biblical story-telling, still towers over anybody who has ever TRIED to played Moses before or since. Stalwart and stoic to a fault, he possess THE look...cut out of pages of my old religious instructions book....the look that radiates magnificence and glory...the look of a man who has definitely seen God. His commanding stature and voice with its slow, deliberate intonation is eerie and unmatched. Yul Brynner portrays Ramses II as if he were the King of Siam in Egyptian pants. Nobody poses or plays majestic like Yul. He's forceful, regal, imperious...everything a biblical foe should be. Anne Baxter as the tempting Nefretiri, Queen of Egypt, borders on total camp in her role, her stylized line readings and breathy allure is laughable now, with posturings and reaction shots not seen since Theda Bara. But who cares? Baxter provides the most fun and its her florid scenes that I now look most forward to whether she's throwing herself at the totally disinterested Moses or verbally sparring with Ramses, slyly pushing his emotional buttons. She alone puts the "k" in kitsch. The rest of the huge cast is appropriately stiff and solemn.
DeMille's 1923 original version of "The Ten Commandments" is hardly subtle as well, but still impressive and certainly worth a look. In the 1956 remake, DeMille organizes a cavalcade of thousands to lend authenticity to the massive exodus scenes, while the ultimate picture-perfect frame for me is the three beautiful slave extras posing exotically and dramatically on a rock in front of a vivid blue-gray backdrop of furious, threatening clouds as Moses parts the sea. That vision alone is one for the books.
Whenever I am tempted to break a commandment or embrace that golden calf, I know I'll always have to answer to Charlton glaring down from Mt. Sinai ready to throw those heavy tablets at me for my transgression. Charlton not only sets you straight, he makes you BELIEVE!
The Ten Commandments
Adventure / Drama
The Ten Commandments
Adventure / Drama
To escape the edict of Egypt's Pharoah, Rameses I, condemning all newborn Hebrew males, the infant Moses is set adrift on the Nile in a reed basket. Saved by the pharaoh's daughter Bithiah, he is adopted by her and brought up in the court of her brother, Pharaoh Seti. Moses gains Seti's favor and the love of the throne princess Nefertiri, as well as the hatred of Seti's son, Rameses. 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, but someone near to him who can 'harden his heart'.
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March 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm