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The Ten Commandments
USA 1956
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Running time 220 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Although in its desire to reach epic proportions it goes on too long, DeMille's remake of his 1923 original is one of the finest of the period's preoccupation with Biblical subject matte , the high-end sub-set of Hollywood’s so-called “sword-and-sandal” tradition of film-making.

The Ten Commandments tells the well-known (well at least at that time) Old Testament story of the Israelites ‘flight from Egypt following the infamous massacre of the innocents after the Pharoah is warned that his undoing will come by the agency of a Hebrew first born. As these things go of course, Pharoah doesn’t manage to escape his fate as one child is saved, is adopted into his household and turns out to be Moses (Charlton Heston). The rest is (Biblical) history.

The film was a must-see for the last truly Christian decade of Western civilization and it made a star of Charlton Heston. Yul Brynner, one of the biggest draw-cards of the day appears as his adopted brother, Rameses,  and Anne Baxter as the woman who comes between them whilst a raft of well-known characters actors such as Cedric Hardwicke, Edward G. Robinson, Judith Anderson and Vincent Price add their star-power to the larger-than-life spectacle.

With a running time of three and a half hours, you’ve got to be in the mood  for the verbal and visual grandiloquence and prepared to see the film in its historical setting.  John P. Fulton's Oscar-winning special effects are tame by today’s standards, but in their day were state-of-the-art with the parting of the Red Sea in particular staggering audiences.

The Ten Commandments was DeMille's last film and a fitting swan-song from one of Hollywood’s pioneer directors.

 

 

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