Cecil B. DeMille Ten Commandments

Film released October 5, 1956

Cecil B. DeMille announced a plan to remake his silent era Ten Commandments (1923) in 1952, intending to refashion the story to only focus on the life of Moses (the earlier film had contained a modern-era parable that was included along with a loosely-adapted biblical depiction).

Determined to make this version the biggest film of his career (which is saying something considering the number of epics he had already made), DeMille claimed to have spent 5 years perfecting his script (which warps the biblical narrative in predictably Hollywoodian ways), and he spent several years on research and preparation before the cameras ever rolled.

Bombastic and wooden in parts, the film strangely enough takes off as an effective character piece when the scenes are smaller and the actors closed in so that instead of seeing the gigantic sets and effects, we have the familiar actor architecture of Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter and Yul Brynner trying to sort out a love triangle that gets imploded once Moses (Heston) decides he's way more Jewish than Egyptian, and that God (which ironically enough, is voiced by Heston!) wants him to get the slaves out of Egypt.

Seriously screwed in the sense of Biblical story fidelity, the film is nonetheless undeniably an "epic Hollywood Adventure with a cast of tens-of-thousands."

DeMille apparently wanted to make an allegory about the threat of communist expansion in the world of 1950's geopolitical crisis, and he has. Slavery looks terrible and worshipping a king/god (substitute Lenin, I guess) and you have tyrannical situation that crushes the many for the luxury of the few.


Original Page August 29, 2014


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