MOVIE REVIEW: “The Ten Commandments” (1956) stars Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes , Ben-Hur ), Yul Brynner (The Magnificent Seven , Westworld ), Anne Baxter (All About Eve, I Confess), Edward G. Robinson (Double Indemnity, The Stranger), Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters [TV series], Oscar), John Derek (All the King’s Men, Exodus), Ian Keith (Queen Christina, It Came from Beneath the Sea), Debra Paget (Broken Arrow, Love Me Tender), Cedric Hardwicke (Rope, Suspicion), Nina Foch (Spartacus , An American in Paris), John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach), Martha Scott (Ben-Hur , Sayonara), Judith Anderson (Rebecca, Santa Barbara), and Vincent Price (House of Usher, The Fly). It is directed by Cecil B. DeMille (The Greatest Show on Earth, Samson and Delilah) and is written for screen by Æneas MacKenzie (Against All Flags, Ivanhoe), Jesse Lasky Jr. (Secret Agent, Unconquered), Jack Gariss (The Greatest Show on Earth, Rescue 8 [TV series]), and Fredric M. Frank (El Cid, Escape to Glory). Based on the Book of Exodus, this film tells how Moses (Heston) led his people out of their shackles in Egypt and out into the desert by the hand of God.
Three years, four hundred reviews, and here we are. I wanted to do something special to celebrate my four hundredth review, and I couldn’t find any better film to critique than “The Ten Commandments,” a feature that I have been wanting to see for quite some time. After witnessing such loose and disappointing biblical adaptations like “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” I wanted to sink my teeth into something direct; something that didn’t disgrace history. I understood where this movie came from when walking in. Outdated special effects, over-exaggerated acting, and a terribly long runtime (so long that my Blu-ray was split into two discs) could turn the average moviegoer away. However, I was looking for an epic; one that I would never forget. I took this release as it was, and treated it as if I was watching it in 1956. No, I’m not going to completely forgive the visual effects, but I’m not going to scorn them either. To be honest, this film was fantastically made. The overall scope and production of the sets and locations were amazing. It felt like the cast was actually in Egypt, and in most cases they were. Besides some obvious blue screens (green screens didn’t come until later), this movie was actually filmed on-location, and it was grand. I loved seeing the detail put into the sets and characters, from the clothing to any piece of worn furniture in a Hebrew home. It gave me a feeling of actually being in the time of Moses, and I applaud the production designers on their terrific work. I’m always appreciative of a fantastic production on such an old release, and I find that even the weakest of visual effects give an antique film its flavor. Most may disagree with me, but that’s just my opinion, and it isn’t influenced by the fact that I am a Christian and this is a religious movie. Although I anticipated to see this because of my beliefs, I won’t give it any more special treatment than great films that I have seen before that don’t have religious themes, even though the story of this one should be heard and taught. Speaking of which, the interpretation of the Book of Exodus is my next thing to talk about. This has to be the closest biblical adaptation that I have ever seen. Granted, I haven’t seen many films that were based on biblical stories, but from what I have seen, this is the most accurate. Everything said in Exodus, aside from a few details, was put in this feature. What was direct was greatly made, and what wasn’t was both interesting and non-blasphemous. I can’t tell you how infuriated I was when I watched “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” They twisted many things, like portraying God as a kid and having Ramses survive the parting of the sea after crossing it. If you are going to make a biblical tale, follow the source material. It’s like if you were to make a historical Civil War film and have the Confederate side win. Don’t change history in cinema; take the opportunity to retell it in the way it happened. I enjoyed seeing the story of Exodus finally come to life. Sure, quite a bit of what was written wasn’t found in the Bible, but I think it added more to the plot than anything. I was never bored or angry in watching this, and even the director came out to say that what wasn’t written in the Bible they looked to historians for. When you have a director/producer who is passionate about a project, they will do all in their power to make it right, and that’s what I think Cecil B. DeMille did. Aside from the interpretation, the acting was fine. Movies were made a lot differently back in 1956. Films were like plays; big, extravagant features where the acting could be campy more often than not. Like I said, I look at releases as if I was seeing them during the time they were made. That doesn’t spare all films, as there can be some old ones that I hate (like old musicals), but this one wasn’t too shabby on its performances. There were some who weren’t that good, but the main actors were great. Charlton Heston was a fantastic Moses, in my opinion, and the men who played Pharaoh (Keith) and Ramses (Brynner) did a good job as well. Things were exaggerated, sure, but it wasn’t so bad that I was rolling my eyes. I was entertained and enlightened by this movie, not just because of the production, but also because of the story. I get that not everyone is religious, but even those who aren’t should enjoy a great plot, and this one is fresh. It’s about freedom from chains, and instead of the white man releasing our characters, it is God. What more could you ask for? If you are religious and are looking for a great film expressing the Bible, I would recommend this one. It is a classic, and even though it has issues and doesn’t follow Exodus to a T, it is still the most accurate interpretation of the biblical tale. Thank you all who have been reading my reviews, and those who have been visiting this site since the start. I also want to thank God, for blessing me with all that I have and for helping Moses and his people escape Egypt. FINAL SCORE: 91%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: