333 of 349 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 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
144 of 152 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
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.
232 of 259 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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!
46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
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.
51 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 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!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 1999
Great lengths have been given to restore a truly classic and epic movie, The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and the late Yul Brynner. Though the move is dated from 1956, the beauty and clarity are beyond expectation. I have enjoyed this movie since my youngest days -I'm 50. With the DVD, gone are the flat, dulled images that made a truly great movie, only an "Ok" one. I am not sure (the packaging does not indicate) but I believe this DVD version may be taken off the restoration version in 1989 - perhaps someone can clarify that question. In any event, version has made an old move rise very close to today's quality and demands by avid movie connoisseurs. The DVD version has also made the special effects and colors very, very impressive, bringing out everything from the richest blues, golds and greens, to warmest reds, browns, and skin tones - with no flat appearances typical with VHS. As is typical with DVDs, there is not the jitteriness or graininess that is often associated with VHS. The sound is also crisp, deep, and clear, no longer muffled and drowned out by years of use and re-releases. As a benefit, the music score by Elmer Bernstein is once again powerful and very compelling. Cecil B. DeMille would smile in his grave - hopefully in heaven - if he beheld the wonderful work that went into this newest release of The Ten Commandments. Today, movies goers, especially those who have never laid eyes on this classic, will thoroughly enjoy this. Paramount is not noted for doing justice to DVD versions of their movies - including director-type versions with commentaries. This DVD version has three trailers for its feature and no commentaries. This too, is unfortunate. However, I still highly recommend this DVD to all lovers of truly good films. This movie brings back the excitement and joy it was meant to have, and it will be one that a viewer or viewers can cherish time and time again, not only for the story line and acting, but how this version makes it seem more like it was shot on location, rather than just in studio stages. I give five stars.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2000
the dvd version of this great film is beyond words..the color is excellent and the sound is also. studios are really doing justice by all the old films with dvd and it really shows with the ten commandments. i highly recommend this for anyone's dvd collection!
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2002
A previous reviewer from New York had a question about the correct aspect ratio for "The Ten Commandments". It was actually shot at about 1:75:1, Amazon.com's review is giving it as 1:78:1 which is basically the same as far as the eye can see and looks correct on my moniter. This ratio allows sufficient expanse for DeMille's epic, but allows the picture to be cropped and framed for TV without losing half the picture! Having actually visited some of the filming locations in Egypt makes this wonderful film more thrilling every time I watch it.
I found the sound ok, but at times I thought my now ancient laserdisc actually gave the score a little more punch. The picture was another matter. It was excellent, sharp and detailed with almost no marks on the print. Colors were rich and vibrant, fleshtones were more accurate. Extras are dissapointing. Only three trailers from the movie. No running commentary, no interviews, not even cast and production notes! Picture gets an A, sound gets a B, but extras get a C. Still, a wonderful film comes to DVD. Thanks, CAL
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
The late Cecil B. DeMille was a great showman of the American movie industry. His last feature, the 1956 Paramount epic "The Ten Commandments", is a remake of a 1923 picture of the same name which he had also produced and directed. I believe Charlton Heston is best remembered for his portrayal of Moses after his lead role in "Ben-Hur"; likewise, Yul Brynner's Rameses comes second in the minds of moviegoers to his King of Siam in "The King and I". From horror-movie staples Vincent Price and John Carradine to cultured British actors Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Dame Judith Anderson, "The Ten Commandments" boasts an excellent supporting cast. While the script is rich in drama and reverence (DeMille made sure the Holy Scriptures were credited in the screenplay), some dialogue material may strike the viewer as somewhat humorous in its use of quirky similes and metaphors, even to the point of sounding campy. Fortunately, this does not affect the movie's respectful treatment of the Biblical story of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. The special effects used in "The Ten Commandments" (Ah, that parting of the Red Sea!!) were superb by the standards of the time and earned the film its only Academy Award. The triumphal music for the soundtrack was composed by the prolific Elmer Bernstein, who after more than 40 years is still busy writing music for films of different genres. "The Ten Commandments" is still a much-revered motion picture, to the point that it is still shown on network television on Easter Sunday. END