Blog Archive

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epic is something I watched every Easter as I grew up, now older I usually just watch it when another special edition gets released. Now on Blu-ray it looks better than ever, sadly the content of the story has lessened a tad over the years. The first half of the movie is still fantastic with Prince Moses (Charlton Heston) and Rameses (Yul Brynner) going head to head over who will rule Egypt and win the heart of Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), then the discovery that Moses is in fact a the son of Hebrew slaves and is sent into exile. In the land of Midian he falls in love with Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo), has a son and all is good until he gets a call from God. This Moses is a man of passion, he honors the Pharoah who raised him as a son, worships Nefretiri, and his relationship with Rameses is rife with great conflict. When he discovers the truth about himself his world view is shattered and he puts himself in the mud pits to find out just what it's like to be a beast of burden. At every turn Moses is given a chance to remain in power but he cannot turn his back on his people. Heston is pretty much perfect in this role.

It's in the second part where things become less fun and decidedly more dodgy (I'm guessing much can be blamed on the source material), but this new Moses who comes to demand his people to be freed is a bit of a stick in the mud, just blaring out declaration and scriptures with barely any feeling (his wife and kid all but forgotten), then he starts unleashing God's wrath and things get a little more interesting, ten plagues descend on Egypt and the Pharaoh eventually frees the Hebrew slaves (this is after his heart is hardened so many times I became worried he'd have a stroke). During the exodus Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) spends every moment proclaiming that Moses has doomed them all and at almost every turn the Hebrews eat it up with a spoon. You'd think a guy with the backing of god capable of plagues, fiery columns, partings of large bodies of water would have earned a little bit of slack, but no, Moses disappears up a mountain for forty days and Dathan has them worshiping idols and performing human sacrifices. Talk about your fickle people. Moses of course returns and brings explosive wrath on the orgy and then everybody sheepishly follows him for next forty years while God tries to get over being ignored.

I do enjoy this movie and this presentation is simply stunning, but there are certainly enough cringe inducing moments to not make it for everyone. Though none can deny the awesome scope of the picture when you look at the crowds of thousands that aren't computer generated.

Note: You'd think one of those ten laws God passed onto Moses would have mention something along the lines of "Though shall not enslave another person."

"Where's your Messiah now, Flanders?"

No comments: