on June 7, 2005
Okay. I admit it. Watching this Biblical epic, when it was a mainstay on ABC each Easter evening for some 30 years, I practically had the whole script memorized. . .even knew when Anne Baxter, as over-eager Nefretiri, would slide into a wickedly wonderful pattern of over-acting. ("Moses. . ." she would coo, "take me in your arms. . .") I must have seen THE TEN COMMANDMENTS dozens of times, and yet, each year, I plopped my carcass on the couch on Easter evening, popcorn and suds in tow, and watched Cecil B. DeMille's 4-plus hour epic, completely mesmerized and entertained.
All of us know the story: a once-great Egyptian prince leads his true people, the Hebrews, into freedom from four centuries of slavery and bondage. It is a great story, as four books of the Old Testament aptly, well, attest. Yet what makes this flick truly wonderful, impressive, and fun to watch, is the scope and grand scale of DeMille's 1956 epic--from the awesome vistas of Egypt, portrayed on a blue screen in some Hollywood studio, to the blatantly corny, often laughable, dialogue and actions of its characters (a distant reflection of the silent film icon who dominates this picture). Accordingly, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, in particular, this DVD Special Collector's Edition, is an absolute blast for film buffs thirsty for more trivia and knowledge regarding one of Hollywood's alltime classics.
Here, in the wonderful commentaries that accompany the film, "The Ten Commandments" student and author Katherine Orrison furnishes an incredible, interesting, and overwhelming avalanche of information. For instance: Did you know that DeMille's first choice for Queen Nefretiri was not Anne Baxter, but Audrey Hepburn? Yet, unfortunately, Hepburn lacked the figure to fill out the silk gowns so prevalent for her character, so Baxter got the nod. And. . .William Holden, not Yul Brynner, was pegged to play Rameses. . .yet Bill didn't want to have his head shaved, while Brynner was an international star following his clean-shaven skullcap in the "King And I." Brynner looked "Egyptian"; he got the part, Holden was dispatched.
And I loved the "diaper pen" disclosure of infant Fraser Heston, who, of course, is Charlton Heston's son, and who played the baby Moses. I've watched this movie, again, dozens of times, but I never noticed the glistening diaper pen on sturdy Fraser's diaper, as the baby laid in his willowy basket, until a giggling Orrison brought it to my attention. Yep, there it is; yet DeMille was on a tight schedule. No time to go back and correct.
In fact, I did not realize that DeMille, 75 when this film was made, suffered a devastating heart attack during production--a setback that threatened to bring the entire project to its knees, before his ambitious daughter filled in for her father, for three short days, before DeMille returned to navigate THE TEN COMMANDMENTS to its historical conclusion. This is good stuff, and Orrison furnishes minute details of just about everything in spellbinding fashion.
So, although Chuck and the gang no longer dominate ABC entertainment on Easter evenings, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS still dominates the hallowed tier of epic lexicons. This movie, after some 50 years, continues to uplift and entertain; and this collector's edition, with its objective grasp of the facts, merely enhances the viewing experience.
--D. Mikels, Author, WALK-ON
I'm not going to spend too much time here critiquing the movie. It's a perennial classic that most have seen at least parts of. Released in 1956 and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, it is also not a 'cinema verite' gorefest like many modern "swords and sandals" epics. It is peopled by characters who speak exclusively in dramatic flourishes, regardless of how illiterate or poor their characters are supposed to be. It takes liberties with some elements of the bible story (Moses' stutter and his Ethiopian wife are strangely absent, for instance). But for my money none of these are knocks on it - it is a classic through and through, and despite starting off a bit slowly, it picks up dramatic steam quickly and becomes quite a mesmerizing experience. The actors make their characters easy to care about, the visuals are sumptuous and engaging, the music is stirring, the story is solid. As a film, it's an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys historical or biblical epics, or just connoisseurs of classic movies.
I purchased this (the 2-disc edition) based on its glowing pre-release reviews on major online review sites. So my expectations were high, to say the least. I was expecting nothing less than a Grand Slam HD experience.
So what did I get? I'm happy to say: A Grand Slam HD experience.
You'll know you're in for a treat when the Overture begins. The backdrop looks just like leather - the sheen and texture are so finely presented that it's easily visible, even from a relatively far viewing distance. Things just keep getting better from there. Colors are out-of-this-world gorgeous. Fine detail is excellent, especially on the intricate Egyptian costumes and cloth textures. Black levels are strong, deep, and consistent throughout. There is a nearly three-dimensional quality to the image, especially in darker scenes, probably because of this combination of color, high contrast, and detail. At its best, it easily bests every other Blu-Ray transfer I've seen from a period film (examples I own include North By Northwest, Gone With the Wind, Wizard Of Oz, Bridge on the River Kwai, and the execrable Spartacus video transfer. TTC beats them all quite handily).
This transfer should quiet any critics who think classic films can't look good in HD (Those still laboring under this misapprehension should google some DVD/Blu-Ray comparison shots of this film). The fact that the VistaVision film was scanned at 6k resolution should indicate to anyone that there is more than enough information present to make a 1080p transfer "worth it." This 1080p presentation seems essentially perfect. Film grain is light and consistent. No undue edge enhancement or DNR seems evident. I can't even fathom this looking better than it does.
Now, all that said, you should know that some of the original optical effects show their seams pretty easily in HD. Blue-screen process shots in the background are painfully evident. But this is what the film looked like when it was shown in theaters. I for one prefer an accurate record of the original effects to any digital monkeying around that a George Lucas type might perpetrate.
The sound is a DTS-MA 5.1 channel mix that does the job very well. Dialogue is clear and distinct. The music score sounds lovely. Surround channels only get a slight workout, mostly on storms, special effects, and so on.
The only extras on the 2 disc edition are a commentary and some vintage trailers and publicity reels. The trailers, all in HD, are neat in and of themselves, especially the long form trailer in which DeMille discusses the research and themes involved in the movie. But I have to say, this commentary (by Katherine Orrison, who literally wrote the book on this movie - Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic The Ten Commandments) is quite engaging and interesting. Orrison provides a wealth of information about the production of the film, and is almost never silent throughout the entire run time.
Simply put, if you are a fan of epic films, this is a must own. You'll get dozens of viewings out of it. It is unfailingly absorbing. If you are a fan of classic movies, they don't get much more classic. Buy this and "Gone With The Wind," and get ready for a 7-hour marathon. But beyond both of these reasons - if you are a fan of great HD, this can't be beat. It is a towering achievement in digital mastering, and hopefully it will shame other studios into treating their own classic properties with the same respect.
While Cecil B. DeMille's directorial skills were sometimes too rooted in the more grandiose style of the silent era, he CERTAINLY was ALWAYS a master showman, and his 1956 remake of "The Ten Commandments" is a whale of a show! Both pious and profane, posturing and sincere, it isn't great history, but it abounds in spectacle. While he was in poor health during the filming (suffering a seizure that was either a stroke or mild heart attack, while working under the 130-degree Egyptian sun), his distinctive 'style' was never more in evidence, with broad, overwrought performances, dazzling costumes and sets, monumental climaxes, and morals that are repeatedly hammered home. In 'classic' DeMille, there ARE no 'grays', everything is 'good' or 'evil', and 'evil' WILL be punished! Watching the film, you'll either enjoy the 'ride', or you'll groan, again and again. Personally, I love it, even with it's unintentional(?) campiness!
Among my favorite 'so bad it's FUN' moments are 'Rameses' Yul Brynner and 'Nefretiri' Anne Baxter's frequent use of "Moses, Moses..." whenever he predicts something dire (Brynner looks like he can barely keep a straight face, uttering the phrase); 'Sephora' Yvonne De Carlo's stoic, yet impassioned pitch to Moses to marry her, always looking away ('into the future', I presume), when comparing her assets to Nefretiri's; 'Dathan' Edward G. Robinson's entire performance (nearly epic hamminess from one of America's finest film actors); Woody Strode's Ethiopian 'Princess' companion, who praises Moses' kindness with so much heat and honey that Nefretiri suspects he was fooling around, down south; and Sir Cedric Hardwicke's 'Sethi', turning an Egyptian Pharoah into a world-weary lovable executive-type (one can't help but wonder how Rameses could be HIS son!)
Compared to Baxter's scenery-chewing, and Brynner's posturing, Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses is so understated that he's often been criticized as 'wooden' in the role, which is unfair; while DeMille frequently posed him to match classic statues and paintings, his complete earnestness in the role, combined with his sheer physical presence, keeps him from receding into the backround of the spectacle that surrounds him. Despite thousands of Egyptian extras portraying Hebrews during the astonishing 'Exodus' sequence, filling the screen, Heston always grabs and holds your attention; certainly no actor has ever been a more memorable Moses!
The film has some very obvious merits; many of the special effects (particularly the 'Angel of Death' vapor, and the massive parting of the Red Sea) are still astonishing, today; Elmer Bernstein's score is an often 'over-the-top' joy to listen to; and the cast includes some very entertaining supporting players, including Nina Foch, Vincent Price, and DeMille's longtime associate, Henry Wilcoxon.
Taken as spectacle, as a grand entertainment for the senses, "The Ten Commandments" is quite a show, and it's continued popularity over the past half-century is proof that many are still captivated by it.
Cecil B. DeMille, master showman, knew his audience!
on December 6, 2013
The 'Limited Edition Gift Set' of 100,000 copies was originally priced at $89.99. I was one of the first 20,000 to buy this set at a pre-release price of $54.99.
The 3 Blu-rays are:
Disc 1 – 1956 movie: 1st part + Commentary by Katherine Orrison
Disc 2 – 1956 movie: 2nd part + Commentary by Katherine Orrison + Newsreel (3 min) + Trailers (13 min.)
Disc 3 – 1923 movie + Special Features
The 3 DVDs are:
Disc 1 – 1956 movie: 1st part + Commentary by Katherine Orrison
Disc 2 – 1956 movie: 2nd part + Commentary by Katherine Orrison + Newsreel (3 min) + Trailers (13 min.)
Disc 3 – Special Features
The DVD Discs 1 and 2 have the same material as the Blu-ray Discs 1 & 2.
The DVD Disc 3 has “The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles” and a “Photo Gallery”.
There is a 2011 Region Free 2-disc Blu-ray release which is exactly the same as Disc 1 and Disc 2 in the 6-disc package. I bought this from Amazon UK for just £7.29 – it’s now being offered for about $15.00. The 2011 Region A/1 Special Edition Blu-ray has a List Price of $39.00.
The plastic disc case – shaped like the Ten Commandments tablets – is rubbish. The discs that remained attached were very difficult to release and the 2 discs which had detached themselves in transit were found to be scratched. To save snapping the discs in half trying to remove them a second time I trashed the Ten Commandments tablets and replaced them with some ordinary disc cases.
The 'Commemorative 50-page book with rare facts and photos' has some very small storyboard copies and a few sound-stage photos. The few color photos are small and washed-out.
The 'Original 1956 Souvenir Program' is not really identical to that issued in 1956. It is smaller in landscape format instead of portrait format. I know this because I still have a copy of the original.
A pity that the Limited Edition Gift Set doesn’t include a CD of Elmer Bernstein’s soundtrack (which was released by Dot Records in 1956).
on February 13, 2004
Whenever Holy Week comes in our country, you will notice that every Video Shop or Rentals is packed with people who are trying to rent some copies of religious film which is perfect for viewing in this time of the year. The absolute 'out-of-stock' video is none other than 'The Ten Commandments' which is selling like a hot cake during this holy season.
I first watched this film when I was 7 years old and until today, I truly appreciate and treasures this film by having a DVD copy of it. There's something in Ten Commandments that is truly haunting and worth-while to watch for...well, few reasons that I can give:
1. the parting of the red sea, which i know, everyone will agree with me that this scene of the movie was a memorable part and that's why, it was considered as a trademark of the movie.
2. the cast of thousands and the production value. it was truly gigantic production and you could really wonder how the director put up all these at that time! well...that's the magic of hollywood and it was truly revealed in this film.
3. the scoring is a masterpiece! Elmer Bernstein captivated the essence of religiously made scoring for a film. The scoring will make you feel that there's holliness and unique spirtual presence. It really made my bones chilled.
4. Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Rameses. these actors played significantly for their biblical portrayals which left them a mark for their outstanding roles.
5. Cecil B De Mille did a wonderful direction for bringing to life this biblical epic about the life and struggles of Moses and the rest of the Israelites. he's worthy to be called Epic Director.
I will definitely recommend this to everyone, both young and old. Please watch it from the very beginning till the end and you will see why those reasons mentioned above can justify the movie as an EPIC film of all time.
The second DVD release of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 landmark film THE TEN COMMANDMENTS -- Special Collector's Edition (Paramount) has all the extras you expected from the first. Charlton Heston hears God's voice and obeys bringing law and light and freedom to slaves. Elmer Bernstein's terrific score, great production design, still nifty effects, a six-part production documentary and a highly detailed commentary make this one for the library.
on March 15, 2004
I was hesitant to review this dvd since, in every credible theologian's view, a fundamentalist approach to the Bible, ignorant of ancient and medieval civilizations and their languages, leads to erroneous interpretations (for example, errors that today are being used to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians and their families, and which, until rather recently, were used to condone racism, segregation and slavery.) But I believe DeMille, The Ten Commandments' producer and director, and the son of a lay Episcopal minister, believed the Bible is the inerrant word of God AND that a historical-critical approach is necessary to understand it (as most mainline churches do, in spite of their often inconsistent stance on gay marriage). The fact that in The Ten Commandments, the Red Sea, not a 'sea of reeds' (a correct translation), parts, is perhaps an example of artistic license.
In a sense, The Ten Commandments is DeMille's Biblical commentary. It's a swan song (DeMille nearly died making it), and a real labour of love (DeMille gave away all of his profits to the cast and crew).
Perhaps first and foremost, The Ten Commandments is great propaganda for democracy (albeit from the Cold War era). Through it DeMille sought to help unite Jews, Christians and Muslims. It argues that all persons are equal and should be 'free', regardless of 'race', ethnicity or 'creed'. It even alludes to the fact that according to the Bible, Moses married an Ethiopian princess (a somewhat daring reference during the segregated '50s).
STYLE & INFLUENCE: It's arguably one of the most spectacular, entertaining and influential films ever made. At Lucasfilm, a poster for it has hung on the wall for many years, and one can easily see the movie's influence not only on Biblical films of the '50s and '60s, but also the Star Wars movies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Arc and numerous other science fiction and fantasy films. Director Michael Powell considered DeMille the greatest magician in film history.
Perhaps the most under-rated aspect of The Ten Commandments is its production design: a marvelous hybrid of art deco and nineteenth century and ancient Egyptian art. Viewing The Ten Commandments is a bit like stepping into a painting by Alma-Tadema or a Pre-Raphaelite, or a book illustration by Dorè, and having the artwork come to life.
The score, by Elmer Bernstein, is extraordinary. It's part of the very essence of the film, and uses leitmotiv beautifully.
TRANSFER: It's excellent, and the next best thing to seeing the movie on a big screen. The colours are very rich and vibrant, and the sound, originally recorded with cutting edge stereo equipment, is nicely remastered and restored.
EXTRAS: I'm SO glad I ordered the most recent dvd release (2004), containing a commentary by Katherine Orrison and a six-part documentary about the 'making of'. Both are extremely informative and entertaining. The latter features interviews with surviving cast and crew, as well as DeMille's granddaughter.
Five stars for the film, five for the transfer, and five for the commentary and documentary!
on March 30, 2011
For starters, I was going to give this review one star, because of the poor housing of the discs themselves. But after watching and listening to this beautiful restoration project Paramount has done, the packaging is only a minor quibble. I have had several versions of this classic, from laserdisc to three or four DVDs. Was hesitant on getting this version because Paramount has used the same print for so many years (just repackaged) thought this was going to be the same print, but with more grain. Have seen a version in hi-def on ABC and it did not look good at all. Let me tell you, this is a different print. The colors are really bold, no grain, the detail is amazing for a picture this old! The fake special effects really stand out now, but that's OK, it's 1956. The sound really sounds much better with this restoration with more bass when needed. The packaging is another thing. The discs are housed in a plastic replica of the tablets and my discs fell of the floor upon opening. The box is too bulky and it 'splits' (was there irony there?) in two making it difficult to handle with two hands. I will learn to deal with these minor faults, because after watching this beautiful 1080p film it's worth the hassle.
Also in HD is the silent 1923 version and it too looks amazing, although not as good as the '56 version.
If you are a true fan of this movie splurge on getting this limited (100,000 were made) box or get the cheaper two disc set with only the '56 version and a special feature. Either way, this version blows away any other version of this grat movie away! Don't listen to people saying the DVD is good enough. This is a new restoration of this classic and it deserves to seen to be believed!!
on December 18, 2002
Cecil B. DeMille, the great filmaker of the early half of the twentieth century, had already made "The Ten Commandments" in silent film format in 1923. When he rereleased it in the 50's, with dazzling Technicolor and booming sound, audiences were swept away. It was without question the most ambitious and most sweeping film since Gone With The Wind. The panorama of thousands of Hebrew slaves crossing the Red Sea, the glory of Egypt's pyramids and palaces, and the powerful performance by legendary actor Charleton Heston, made this film a blockbuster, earning its place in the hall of great films. Starring Charleton Heston (Moses), Yul Brynner (Ramses the Pharaoh) and a cast of thousands, The Ten Commandments is quality drama and always an experience to watch. This film is still aired on television every Easter.
Taken from the biblical book of Exodus, and some other sources, such as a novel "Prince Of Egypt", it begins with the old Pharaoh issuing the order to slaughter every first born Hebrew male. Moses life is spared by the intervention of the barren Egyptian princess who raises him in the Egyptian court. The pharaoh believes Moses to be his son, although Yul Bryner is the rightful heir and clearly jealous of Moses. Nefertiti is in love and in lusst with Moses, desiring to be his queen consort when the Pharaoh proposes Moses be the future king. But the truth about Moses' Jewish blood is revealed and is mocked for being a slave. As an exiled man in the desert, Moses discovers a group of nomadic Jews and marries a wife, Sephora. He begins to worship the nameless God of the mountain, who sends him on the mission to free the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian opression. The special effects are phenomenal for their time, including the scenes of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Never before has Heston uttered more powerful words in his acting career than "Behold the hand of God!".
The acting is melodramatic, at times, nearly superfluously dramatic and tense, with poetic diction and the type of hammy dialogue that is called for early radio and tv screenplay. But nevertheless, it is a stunning film. On this DVD release, there is much to marvel at, including the entire film unedited and with an intermission. The Ten Commandments is yours to watch on DVD and a treasure for years to come.
on November 8, 2011
THE ELEVEN COMMANDMENTS ( NOT ONLY TEN) because there a new commandment that says:
"You'll never see a movie again in DVD if there is a good edition in Blu Ray"
Even the sound is better and if you have a good projector you will enjoy THE TEN COMMANDMENTS as never you have seen it.
For the first time I have enjoyed the film in my house with the feeling that the special effects are not cartoons as it was earlier in VHS and DVD editions.
When I was a child I've seen the premiere in real VISTAVISION in Lisbon and the ilusion was exactly the same that I can only now enjoy. Congratulations
João Pereira Bastos Lisboa Portugal