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THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)
The odyssey of Moses is brought to majestic life by director Cecil B. DeMille in his star-studded rendition of the hallowed Old Testament story. As the adopted Egyptian prince turned Jewish Prophet, Charlton Heston is the embodiment of Biblical righteousness, smashing God's stone tablets in order to chasten his sacrilegious flock. Yul Brynner is the legendary tyrant Pharaoh Rameses, who lives to regret his vengeful pursuit of the Israelites.
"The Ten Commandments" qualifies as Director
Cecil B. DeMille's unquestioned masterpiece.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was nominated for the Best Picture award.
"It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage. It would take a God."
Cecil B. DeMille's epic film, "The Ten Commandments," tells the Biblical story of the life of Moses and his calling by God to be the Almighty's instrument to free the Egyptian Jewish slaves, by dealing with the Pharaoh, and then leading them out of Egypt, depending on God's help all the while. In grandiose Hollywood style, the many trials and miracles that are recorded in the book of Exodus, experienced by the Egyptians, Moses and the Israelites are dramatically displayed on film, the overall grand scale of using 1000 extras in the exodus scenes, and the vivid pageantry and musical score, by Elmer Bernstein, still is an awesome sight!
Producer / Director Cecil B DeMille was a showman and excelled at telling stories in a big way on film. His specialty were Biblical films. The unaccredited voice of God, who talks to Moses, was supposedly recorded by DeMille. Some old Hollywood types would say it was typecasting.
With this terrific cast of stars, the screenplay, by MacKenzie, Lasky, Graris & Frank, based on the Rev. J.H. Ingraham's and Dorothy Clark Wilson's books, as well as holy scriptures, comes alive through their combined talents.
Charlton Heston excels as the stalwart, stoic, obedient Moses, who has his hands full dealing with the hard-hearted Pharaoh, as well as his own stiff-necked people, as he follows God's plan to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to their promised land. Heston portrayed "The Look," of radiance and glory of a man who has seen God, through his voice and demeanor. "The Lord of Hosts will do battle for us. Behold his mighty hand!" He became the role, and is known for his portrayal of Moses, which no one has ever yet matched. "Charlton not only sets you straight, he makes you BELIEVE!" - (Gary Brumburgh.)
Yul Bryner was fantastic as the arrogant Pharaoh Rhamses. He was regal, forceful, imperious, stubborn and cruel, like one would expect from a formidable Biblical foe.
Bryner and Heston together were a dynamite combination,
and their scenes together were riveting.
Anne Baxter, as Nefretiri, is convincing as the princess who dearly loves Moses, and dislikes the self-absorbed, power-seeking Rhamses, who has no people skills at all. One of these princes will be her husband, and she ferverently hopes that Moses will be chosen to be the next pharaoh. "Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn splendid, adorable fool!" "You will be king of Egypt and I will be your footstool!" Nefretiri is willing to even kill for Moses, which she confesses to Moses after the fact. She killed the personal slave Memnet (Judith Anderson), when Memnet threatens to tell the Pharaoh what she knows about Moses' true identity.
My favorite scene with Baxter and Heston is this scene, when Moses firmly, patiently coaxes the truth out of the distraught Nefretiri which she doesn't want to tell him, concerning why she killed the servant, Memnet, and his true identity. She knows that Moses will investigate this claim about his origins and may be taken away from her because of who he truly is.
Edward G. Robinson, excels as the creepy Dathan, who is a Jew made rich, by working for the Egyptians as the Hebrew slave overseer. He marries Moses' sister, Miriam(Olive Deering), who really loves Joshua (John Derek). Robinson is appropriately slimy in character as a villain and all around scum-bag, and did have some pithy lines, such as "Too many ears tie a rat's tongue." He does very well with the lines given to him, being a well-grounded and talented actor. His character tries to discourage the people, foil Moses leadership, and God's plan.
I also enjoyed Nina Foche's portrayal of Moses' adoptive mother, Bithiah, who rescued him from the river, and raised him as her own son. When she knows that Moses is going to find his birth family, Bithiah rushes over to his mother's home, and pleads with Yochabel (Martha Scott) to tell Moses that she is not his mother. Moses of course follows Bithiah, and finds out the truth when his mother can't do it. Bithiah remains loyal to Moses, and goes with him when the Hebrew slaves leave Egypt, willing to believe in the Hebrew God.
Other big stars that can be found in this epic are Vincent Price, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Carradine, Cedric Hardwicke, Henry Gordon, Douglass Dumbrille and Julia Faye, to name just a few.
The film is a classic because of its powerful story, great cast (particularly Heston and Bryner), and the Oscar winning special effects, by John P. Fulton, which wowed the original audience, and have held up well for today's audience as well. . This film uses the best of 1957's technology, resulting in a top-notch effort. Especially chilling is the green gray mist of the Angel of Death, as it comes down from the sky and floats silently into the city. And of course, the memorable parting of the Red Sea sequence is quite dramatic, and is everyone's most memorable sequence of scenes from this film.