The Ten Commandments

1956, Movie, NR, 219 mins

Review

TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE
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A great big wallow, sublime hootchy-kootchy hokum, peppered with lightning that does automatic writing and an unsurpassed homage to the joys of jello. Director-producer Cecil B. DeMille ended his great career with this gigantic production, packed with enormous crowd scenes, lavish spectacles, and wide-screen special effects orchestrated with dazzling brilliance.

DeMille's Exodus (a tale he had also filmed in 1923) opens as the Egyptian pharaoh is told that the deliverer of the enslaved Hebrews will soon be born. He orders the slaughter of all newborn Jewish males, but one is placed on a basket in the Nile, found by the pharaoh's sister, and brought up as her own. Years pass and the now-adult Moses (Charlton Heston) has become a beloved prince, much to the chagrin of Rameses (Yul Brynner), the pharaoh's son. When Moses's lineage is revealed, he is banished into the desert, but after several peaceful years, he learns of his destiny in his encounter with the burning bush. The film then depicts his return and his confrontation with Rameses II, the mass exodus of the Hebrews, Moses's parting of the Red Sea, his receipt of the Ten Commandments, the Jews' worship of the idolatrous Golden Calf, and their 40 years of wandering as punishment. Finally, the aged Moses watches Joshua lead his people into the Promised Land.

DeMille tells the biblical story on a scale no other filmmaker ever attempted, yet the star cast cannot be overwhelmed by the epic production, even if the orgy did take three weeks to film. The exodus itself is truly moving, and Hardwicke lends a convincing old Pharaoh. Heston's stalwart prophet really does look like Michelangelo's Moses--how can he miss? Brynner and Baxter supply velvet and villainy, Robinson and Vincent Price are accomplished camps, and Paget and DeCarlo contribute beautous support. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS eventually grossed over $80 million, enjoying several re-releases, and DeMille's vision remains a powerful one, a testament to his inestimable talent as the master of epic vulgarity and self-justified righteousness. leave a comment

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