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The Ten Commandments

April 17, 2022

Chag Pesach sameach

The Ten Commandments – They just don’t make movies like this anymore. I’m talking about the 1956 American biblical epic film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille not to be confused with the horrible Exodus: Gods and Kings film of 2014.

As one of my favorite films, I deeply appreciate the dramatized biblical story of the life of Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who becomes the deliverer of his real brethren, the enslaved Hebrews. It is a classic and I can’t image anyone else playing Moses than Charlton Heston or anyone other than Yul Brynner as Rameses. Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora was sensitive if not a bit over-acted. Even Anne Baxter as Nefretiri (definitely over-acted) seems an integral part of the movie that could never be replaced by another actress. The only sketchy casting was Edward G. Robinson as Dathan. I always expect him to say: “What do you think of your Moses now?” in a gangster like threatening voice. There’s just so much great stuff in this movie that the small flaws are overlooked.

This movie is from the day when “cast of thousands” really meant it and was not just a foley edited piece of digitized nonsense. The special effects were pretty good for 1956 but they were achieved chiefly through the use of much reality. When you saw the chariots rushing into the Red Sea, they were the real McCoy. The long line of Hebrews leaving in the Exodus was composed of real actors and they were many. Every aspect of the film was large, literally taking on biblical proportions. The special photographic effects in The Ten Commandments were created by John P. Fulton, A.S.C. who received an Academy Award for his effects in the film.

Historically, DeMille was a stickler of accuracy. History was meticulously researched, resulting in such small details as the two different helmets that Ramses wears. Pharaoh is usually shown wearing the red-and-white crown of Upper and Lower Egypt or the nemes royal headdress. For his pursuit of the Israelites, he wears the blue Khepresh helmet-crown which the pharaohs wore for battle. The movie is full of other historically accurate details which lend warmth and genuineness to the production. Of course decades later, it is now generally acknowledged that Ramses was not the pharaoh of the Exodus but rather Thutmose II (1493 or 1492 to 1479 BC). But remember, this film was made over 66 years ago.

My wife and I always watch this film at Easter/Passover. But with a running time of 220 minutes (3 hours, 40 minutes for you millennials), we find we need to start early. Invariably I nod off shortly before Moses tosses the tablets and re-awake minutes later when he is on top of Mount Nebo gazing at the promised land. With the film’s final line from Moses, “Go, proclaim liberty throughout the land, onto all the inhabitants thereof!,” I feel a bit and restored as I shuffle off to bed. Movies just don’t get much better than this!

If you haven’t seen this movie (Is that possible?), I recommend it very much. If you have seen it, watch it again because it never seems to get old. Watching it during Passover will give it a bit more special meaning.

Photo: Original movie poster for The Ten Commandments.

By the way, can you name all of the Ten Commandments? Most people can not. How many do you know?

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From → America, History

  1. jackielagata permalink

    Good Morning Allen, I went to Catholic School for about eight years. Yes, I still remember all of my prayers, even the Apostles’ Creed. The Nuns has a way of making our little brains work at their capacity!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. KAREN ZUECH permalink

    We watch it every year also.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carolyn permalink

    I looked for it on Netflix and couldn’t find it. I will keep looking.

    Liked by 1 person

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