Disc Reviews

The Ten Commandments Blu-ray Review

10commThe Bible according to Cecil B De Mille. The epic film was created by D.W. Griffith but was given the Hollywood signature by De Mille. He had already made the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments in 1923 and this was his own remake and his swan song, being that it was his final film. Released in 1956 it was made at a time when the epics were rolling off the Hollywood studio back lots and made Charlton Heston the genre’s leading star. It follows the Old Testament story from Moses’ birth, being cast down the Nile in a wicker basket to be saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter following an edict from the Pharaoh, Ramases I that every first born child of the Hebrews should be killed as told by a prophecy (here’s a good old fashioned self-fulfilling prophecy that the one that is saved will bring down the Egyptians). It follows Moses from adopted son of the Pharaoh to being a slave and ultimately the (vengeful) deliverer of the word of God. As this is an Old Testament story it is, needless to say full of the blood and thunder of the book and does not hold back in portraying the elder Moses as a bringer of plagues and pestilence as he delivers his black magic to the waning Egyptians.

Task master De Mille knew how to put on a show and he certainly did it with this film. Shot in widescreen (Paramount) VistaVision and in glorious Technicolor the film has seldom looked better than it does here, the Blu-ray transfer showing off the fine colourful costumes and jewellery designed by Arnold Friberg. Hardly a blemish on the film is in sight, belying its almost 60 years in a film that is still a favourite for an Easter Bank Holiday. De Mille has his stamp all over as he not only introduced the film and narrates it but is also the voice of God! There’s a self-confident ego for you. De Mille worked hard for his film and like other great directors and control freaks took part in every detail including the selection of hundreds of horse, all expensive and exquisite (as well as hard to control and ride) Arab chargers ridden by the ill-fated Egyptians as they head to the parting of the Dead Sea. This disc too, or more accurately two discs in order that there is minimum compression and therefore loss in quality of picture is shown in its original 231 minute version as opposed to the usually shown or released 220 minute version. What is added is an introduction in front of red velvet curtains by De Mille and a score for the Prologue, Entr’acte and close. Whether viewed in two sittings (neatly separated by the Entr’acte) or in one sitting The Ten Commandments is gripping viewing and of course there are plenty of Hollywood epic cliches such as dialogue repeated throughout in which an Egyptian character will exit stage left with the words “so it is said let it be written” said on more than a handful of occasions. Charlton Heston rather valiantly said of his co-star, Yul Brynner that he was out performed by the up and coming star who plays the jealous rival, Ramases II, buffed up in his shaved bare chest (which was the reason why Brynner looks so muscle bound in The King and I, the film he made after this one). Never the less Heston in his oversized Hebrew robes and God-like coiffured grey hair is as iconic as Moses himself and fits very comfortably into his sandals.

Extras on the disc are not bountiful but are worth viewing such as the black and white production shots gallery while the commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of a book on the making of the film, ‘Written in Stone’ in which she gives an insightful analysis and expertise in knowledge on the film. The main extra though is the Blu-ray quality of the film and the sharp images and colour. For this the disc is worth it’s cover price.

Chris Hick

Share this!