on May 9, 2006
Like many admirers of DeMille, I was delighted when this 50th Anniversary Edition appeared but then, profoundly disappointed with what it contains. This movie has had two previous DVD releases and to my eyes, the presentation here is not an improvement on earlier outings.
Unlike Warners magnificent restoration of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, GONE WITH THE WIND and WIZARD OF OZ (amng others) which were digitally restored, frame by frame, Paramount has merely assembled the best archive print it can and remixed the soundtrack.
As for the "extras", surely a film which was in production & pre-production for almost 5 years & cost $13 million to make , had a ton of archive materials - photos, stills, memos, storyboards etc- that could have been included? The documentary seemed underproduced and cheaply done. Where was Debra Paget? Where was Nina Foch? Where was Yvonne De Carlo? All major players in the film and still very much alive! What great memories they would have had to share! Instead, we get an old interview with Heston and two minor bitpart players (one, Eugene Mazzola who played Ramses son, offers little as he was only 12 at the time!). And what about Clint Walker? Every time he makes an appearance as a guard (which is often), we are told this by the irritating commentator, as though it was some momentous event - well, if so, why didn't they interview him? He's a nice guy & loves talking about his career.
So, Paramount, I am giving the DVD set just 3 stars but only because it is good to finally have the silent version available at last. But given the fact that De Mille's own private archive is extensive and comprehensive I am surprised the De Mille Estate was not more fully involved in this.
Three DVDs in a matter of 8 years seems to me to be milking the cow without any effort. Will there be a Super Collectors' Edition next year? If so, I hope it's an improvement on this!
An opportunity missed!
on March 16, 2006
There is little I can say that will add to the discussion of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 VistaVision classic "The Ten Commandments." Love it or hate it, it is impossible to rank the film as anything less than a monumental chapter in the history of cinema.
As for the DVD, the question posed is this: Is the new 50th Anniversary Edition worth the upgrade? The answer depends on your circumstances. If you have never purchased the film on DVD or own only the bare-bones 1999 DVD edition, then I would highly recommend picking up Paramount's newest release of the film. In addition to the 1956 classic (presented in anamorphic widescreen; note to Amazon.com editors: the aspect ratios of VistaVision films are 1.85:1, not 2.20:1 as claimed above), the DVD offers six featurettes detailing various aspects of the film's production, audio commentary by DeMille historian Katherine Orrison, and three trailers, including the 1956 "Making Of" trailer featuring DeMille himself. This three disc set also includes the first DVD release of DeMille's 1923 silent film version of "The Ten Commandments" in black and white and in its original Academy Standard (1.33:1) aspect ratio; the film also features commentary by Orrison.
However, if you own the 2004 Special Collector's Edition release, there is nothing in this set you do not already have, except for the silent film. There are no new special features in this set, and the transfer is identical to the 2004 release. If you own the 2004 DVD, I would recommend saving your money unless you are eager to own the original silent film. For those who do not own any DVD edition of "The Ten Commandments," I highly recommend picking up a copy of this set; it offers the best opportunity to view a true Hollywood masterpiece.
on July 31, 2004
I already had high expectations of this film to begin with, and was not disappointed when it turned out to be quite different from what I had expected. For a start, the famous "Ten Commandments" story (10 plagues of Egypt, Israelites leave via parting of the Red Sea, Moses receives 10 Commandments on Mt Sinai while Israelites misbehave and make a golden calf) later made famous by Charlton Heston as Moses, is actually only the PROLOGUE in this silent 1923 version, and the larger part of the story is a contemporary drama showing the modern-day relevance of the ten commandments with similar dire consequences to those who defy them. This might be a disappointment to those who expect a full Biblical epic and a famous Cecil B DeMille spectacle, but for those who value a brilliant story with poignant highlights to impress its ideas, this one rates the full 5 stars. The prologue (about 45 minutes) with its beautiful Egyptian sets and convincing special effects has a special feature, namely a 20-minute colour sequence of the highlight, the parting of the Red Sea, and although the colours look soft, weak and washed-out, it's interesting to see one of these first experiments with colour.
The contemporary story shows a mother with two sons; one is a god-fearing and humble carpenter, the other an unbelieving go-getter determined to prove his mother's teaching of the Ten Commandments of no use in the modern world. Although you can guess that this defiant son's attitude will be proven wrong, being the parallel to the defiant Pharaoh of Egypt in the prologue, DeMille's direction of the story is still unpredictable and suspenseful enough to keep you enthralled and wondering exactly how it will turn out. He also gets the main message across several times in various effective ways, namely that defying God's AND man's laws only leads you to ruin, but far from feeling lectured or preached to, this excellent film gets you involved with the characters and the morale of the whole story.
on November 1, 2012
We all have seen the 10 Commandments that starred Chuck Heston. This one predates that movie and is one that I had seen only once. When this became available I had to have it. The early part of the film has all the historic parts of the movie we know but then it follows up with lessons for (then) modern day and still relevant for our "modern" time. This nicely ties up the package in a big bow.
Even though it is silent, you will be glued to your seat as you watch the action unfold - the production values and special effects are groundbreaking (for the day) and highly watchable today.
Sometimes it is good to look back and enjoy.
on April 8, 2006
Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956, Paramount) may be the greatest Biblical epic in Hollywood's history. People tend to ridicule it, but generally without seeing it. Yes, it has corny dialogue at times, but a glance at the long 1956 theatrical trailer with DeMille in his office, surrounded by Bibles and other religious items, leaves no doubt that this is an old-fashioned showman and devoutly religious man. He was born in the 1880's and came of age during a time of traveling carnival shows with theatrical dialogue and larger-than-life performances. So when it came time to do a wide-screen. color, sound remake of his own excellent 1923 silent epic, he would remember the carnival epics of his youth. We believe the message and manner of speaking in the 1956 film because DeMille believed in it sincerely. He wanted us to, quite simply, live according to The Ten Commandments because God wanted that.
Nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture (it lost to Mike Todd's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS), THE TEN COMMANDMENTS tells the life of Moses (Charlton Heston) from infancy to old age in ancient Egypt. Though secretly Hebrew, he lives the life of a pharaoh. The supporting cast is very impressive-Yul Brynner as Rameses, Anne Baxter as Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, lovely Debra Paget as Lilia and John Derek as Joshua (their career performances), Martha Scott and Yvonne DeCarlo, evil Vincent Price, and literally a cast of thousands during the Exodus climax. DeMille had many technical advisors and believed "the film was made in the office", meaning when the screenplay was completely finished line for line and scene for scene. He prided himself on having every single extra know exactly who they were playing and what they were doing story-wise. Maybe that it one reason his movies hold up so well. The Oscar-nominated color cinematography, art direction, and costume design are gorgeously colorful, but faithful to the period. Best of all is the greatest music score Elmer Bernstein ever composed, thunderous and wonderful. And inexplicably not an Oscar nominee; nor was DeMille as Director, go figure.
The 50th anniversary DVD includes a DeMille introduction and full fifteen minutes of Bernstein roadshow bookend music not in the TV print. It also includes a very informative and insightful audio commentary by DeMille scholar and author Katherine Orrison that will let you know Mr. DeMille was dead serious in his film intentions here. Watch this 1956 epic after hearing criticism about how hokey it is, and you may be floored by how engrossing and literate it is. It moves and is beautifully paced by editor Anne Bauchens for four full hours (including the roadshow music). There is also a six-part documentary on the making of the movie behind the scenes.
If you need more of an excuse to buy this new and downright cheap (only $15.50 from Amazon.com) DVD set that sprawls across three disks in an exquisite box, Paramount Home Video has included the 136 minute 1923 silent version by Mr. DeMille as a kind of double feature. It is very impressive in its own right. And the fact that the filmmaker believed in his story about living according to The Ten Commandments may be why we believe in his story also eight decades later. DeMille gives us a 45 minute Biblical prologue, basically the last 45 minutes of the remake-the Exodus out of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the creation of the Ten Commandments from God to Moses on Mount Sinai. His sets are truly gigantic, but the human story and character details down to the bit roles are never lost.
The remaining 90 minutes of the silent version are a Modern Story set (and filmed) in 1923 San Francisco. We have good (Richard Dix) and bad (Rod La Rocque) brothers, a mother (Edythe Chapman) who lives every word of the Bible, and a likeable leading lady (Leatrice Joy). In essence, good brother lives according to the Bible and loves mom, while bad brother and his mistress take a path to Hell disobeying God's teachings. He is an architect, and trust me when I say you do not want to lease or buy one of his buildings! What makes this silent original so great, aside from a thrilling Wurlitzer pipe organ score by the great Gaylord Carter, is that the good brother is not all goody-good and the bad brother is not all evil. And Nita Naldi also has a colorful supporting role as a leper named Sally Lung. Once again, DeMille author and scholor Katherine Orrison provides lucid audio commentary for 136 minutes. There is also a separate bonus section showing off the original hand-colored Exodus and parting of the Rea Sea (filmed north of Los Angeles near what is now Santa Barbara).
Do treat your family to this $25 retail (ten dollars less from Amazon.com) triple disk 50th anniversary edition of Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Both the 1923 and the 1956 versions are here together in shimmering studio prints and are must-sees every Easter and Passover season. They are definitely priced to own at a ridiculously low price and are wonderful entertainment with a profound message to live by.
on September 28, 2011
I very much enjoyed this trek back into cinematic history very much as an earlt work of Cecil B. Demille. I particularly enjoyed the present day (1923) scenes filmed on and around the Church of Sts Peter & Paul in San Francisco as I am a native San Francisican. I ejoyed seeing the church as it was built and the surrounding neighborhood as it was not too long after the fire and earthquake of 1906. It was a delight.
on August 10, 2006
I wanted to just put this in for those who might be interested. In the DVD commentary on the silent Ten Commandments by Katherine Orrison, she says that the poem on which the female character (in the present day section)has written her "Goodbye" suicide note is probably important but she hasn't time to look it up. I did. It was relatively easy with a quick computer search. The poem that the note is written on is Helas by Oscar Wilde. She was quite correct that it had direct meaning for what was happening in the film at that moment. At this moment of greatest dispair and just before her return to religious belief, this is the poem used.
To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play
Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control?
Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay,
Which do but mare the secret of the whole.
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life's dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God:
Is that time dead? Lo, with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance--
and must I lose a soul's inheritance?
For those who watch the silent film, the reason for this poem being seen at that exact moment is all too clear. What impresses me is how quickly it passes from the screen, but the care that was made in the choice of this poem. I just wanted to share this small bit of research with anyone who would be interested.
Great job Paramount home video!!! They did a top notch royal treatment of BOTH the 1923 silent and the 1956 oscar winning masterpiece,BOTH directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille!!! The picture and sound quality is superb on BOTH movies!!! The 1956 film is on dics's 1 and 2(the extras are also on disc 2),and the 1923 solint is on disc 3. Of course the reason I bought this was for the 1956 version,but I liked the silent one as well,being that I never saw that version before. This set also boasts some cool extras such as Audio Commentary by Katherine Orrison on BOTH films,A six part documantary,A newsreel,and 3 trailers!!! Five bright shining stars!!! Two thumbs up!! A+
on July 26, 2007
***** ABOUT THE 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION 3-DISK DVD SET *****
ABOUT THE DVD: 1923 + 1956 Editions + EXCELLENT COMMENTARY & 6 FEATURETTES
Over the years I have seen this film dozens of times, but this is by far the best rendering I have seen yet. The 1956 edition is as pristine a restoration as I have ever seen. It is "Widescreen" and plays in either English or French with English subtitles available.
***** 6-PART DOCUMENTARY: 'MOSES', 'THE CHOSEN PEOPLE', 'LAND OF THE PHARAOHS', 'THE PARAMOUNT LOT', 'THE SCORE', 'MR. DE MILLE'
***** TRAILERS: - 1956 'MAKING OF', '1966 RE-RELEASE', '1989 RE-RELEASE'
***** NEWSREEL: - NY PREMIERE
***** COMMENTARY: KATHERINE ORRISON for both the 1923 & 1956 film included -- This is about as good as movie commentary gets. Many subjects, like camels 1300 years before any were in Egypt and Biblical errors, are discussed in detail. I suggest seeing the film without commentary first and listening to the commentary during a subsequent viewing, because she speaks non-stop for 3.5 hours.
1923 EDITION - FULLSCREEN 1956 EDITION - WIDESCREEN
FIRST THOUGHTS: COMPROMISES WERE MADE BUT A GREAT HISTORIC TRIBUTE WAS STILL CREATED
To make a relatively-modern film regarding the story of Moses would have been much easier if it DID NOT have to appeal to such a broad audience. With its huge epic scope and the tremendous cost that came with "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS," certain compromises were necessary so that the huge costs could be recouped. However, I believe the film, like the message of the Ten Commandments within the Bible, is meant to be available and, hopefully, compelling for a universal audience. Therefore, certain compromises were probably justified for that purpose.
IN A NUTSHELL:
For the sake of creating a bridge to connect today's audience to the story of Moses which took place around 1300 B.C.), Cecil B. De Mille needed modern references and some added sex appeal. Most of this fictionalized "hook" material was presented in the first half of the film. It is interesting to note that over the years larger audiences have been recorded, via the T.V. ratings. for the more historically-accurate second half of the film, indicating that people were tuning in rather than tuning out for this nearly four-hour (longer with commercials) epic.
Plenty of sex appeal and motivation was provided by the relationship between Moses and Nefertiri [Anne Baxter] for the adults and by Jethro's dancing daughters for the younger set. There was as much in "The Ten Commandments" about breaking the Ten Commandments as there was about keeping them. Over and over again, we see the chosen people behaving hedonistically, which has always been most disturbing to me since they witnessed the miracles and proof of God's existence and Moses' role as patriarch first-hand. We also see that even the children can become victims of the wrath of God, as was Rameses' son [Eugene Mazzola]. This served as a meaningful cue for many a young viewer.
WHAT THE "TEN COMMANDMENTS" IS ALL ABOUT: 2 EPIC FILMS INCLUDED IN SET
"IF YOU BREAK THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS WILL BREAK YOU!" - This theme was imprinted into the original 1923 silent film by DeMille [included in this set] and is repeated in the 1956 version. Unlike the 1923 edition which uses the Exodus solely as a long and elaborate prologue before the story proper begins (set in the present of its time, 1923), the 1956 film stays in the time of Moses, thus resisting the jump to modern times and perhaps explaining the need for 20th-century references.
-----> MAJOR CAST MEMBERS OF 1956 FILM <-----
Charlton Heston - God (Uncredited) [Voice] / Moses
Yul Brynner - Rameses
Anne Baxter - Nefertiri
Edward G. Robinson - Dathan
Yvonne de Carlo - Sephora
Debra Paget - Lilia
John Derek - Joshua
Nina Foch - Bithiah
Cedric Hardwicke - Sethi
Martha Scott - Yochabel
Judith Anderson - Memnet
Vincent Price - Baka
John Carradine - Aaron
Olive Deering - Miriam
Douglas Dumbrille - Jannes
Frank de Kova - Abiram
Henry Wilcoxon - Pentaur
Eduard Franz - Jethro
Donald Curtis - Mered
Lawrence Dobkin - Hur Ben Caleb
H.B. Warner - Amminadab
-----> MAJOR PRODUCTION TEAM - 1956 <-----
Cecil B. DeMille - Director / Producer
Henry Wilcoxon - Producer
Fredric M. Frank - Screenwriter
Rev. J.H. Ingraham - Book Author
Jesse Lasky, Jr. - Screenwriter
Aeneas MacKenzie - Screenwriter
Rev. G.E. Southon - Book Author
Dorothy Clarke Wilson - Book Author
Loyal Griggs - Cinematographer
W. Wallace Kelley - Cinematographer
J. Peverell Marley - Cinematographer
John F. Warren - Cinematographer
Elmer Bernstein - Composer (Music Score)
Anne Bauchens - Editor
Ray Moyer - Production Designer / Set Designer
Albert Nozaki - Production Designer
Hal Pereira - Production Designer
Walter Tyler - Art Director
Sam Comer - Set Designer
Edith Head - Costume Designer
Dorothy Jeakins - Costume Designer
John Jensen - Costume Designer
Ralph Jester - Costume Designer
Frank McCoy - Makeup
Frank Westmore - Makeup
Wally Westmore - Makeup
John P. Fulton - Special Effects
LeRoy J. Prinz - Choreography
-----> THE MAJOR AWARDS 1956 <-----
Best Color Art Direction (nom) Comer, Sam M. 1956 Academy
Best Color Art Direction (nom) Moyer, Ray 1956 Academy
Best Color Art Direction (nom) Hal Pereira 1956 Academy
Best Color Art Direction (nom) Albert Nozaki 1956 Academy
Best Color Art Direction (nom) Walter Tyler 1956 Academy
Best Color Cinematography (nom) Loyal Griggs 1956 Academy
Best Editing (nom) Anne Bauchens 1956 Academy
Best Picture (nom) 1956 Academy
Best Sound (nom) Loren L. Ryder 1956 Academy
Best Special Effects (nom) John P. Fulton 1956 Academy
Best Actor - Drama (nom) Charlton Heston 1956 Golden Globe
Best Actor (win) Yul Brynner 1956 National Board of Review
IN THE END: TERRIFIC TWIN EPICS WITH SPECIAL FEATURES
on June 10, 2014
I remember watching the Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 The Ten Commandments In the old movie theater. I couldn't get my hands on the 20 cents it cost to get inside. One day the owner gave me a job sweeping out the theater. I recieved a ticket, a bag of popcorn, a popcicle and a soda pop.The first movie I watched after getting the job was this silent film. I never forgot it and wanted to add it to my library. Now I have, Thank you for granting my wish. I now own the 1923 version and the 1956 one with Charlton Heston.
Er..excuse me while I get my popcorn and soda pop. I'm going to watch it again... right now!
You'll love this 50th aniversar collection.
All the best