The Ten Commandments (1956) Paramount Pictures 3/30/2021
Directed By: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Charles Heston, Yul Brenner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo
Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.
When someone brings up the subject of big ultra-lavish spectacle film a few movies come to mind. 1963's massively huge Cleopatra and, of course Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epic which has a runtime of nearly four-hours. At the start of the film DeMille comes out and does an introduction to his own movie. We then hear the roaring score by Elmer Bernstein and up comes the title card The Ten Commandments and with it ushered in a truly one-of-a-kind film. The story tells of Moses (Charlton Heston) a Egyptian Prince who releases his divine destiny to lead the Hebrews out of bondage from Rameses (Yul Brynner).
So, I must admit that I've never actually seen this entire movie. This is odd seeing how I am obsessed with these mega-budget 'epics' of a bygone era. By the end I think I was totally blown away by, simply put a staggering cinematic achievement. The film though very long is never dull and every scene is a spectacle for the eyes and ears. The amount of time, money, artistry and man hour on display is mind boggling and, it takes a master take DeMille to pull it altogether. The director, who was in his 70s at the time manages to construct a movie on a scale that was rarely seen at the time of its release. Yeah, the movie is woefully old fashioned and, even in the late '50s probably seemed out of touch, especially seeing how a decade later these movies would be replaced by counter-culture fare.
The film was a huge hit making 100 million from its 12 million dollar budget. It no doubt inspired Warner Bros Ben-Hur (1959), also starring Charlton Heston. . Whilst on the subject Heston the larger than life character is at his best. Whatever you think about his politics and stance on guns, you cannot deny his suave leading man charms and skill at acting. Any time he's on the screen Heston dominates the viewers attention. In supporting roles is Yule Brenner giving a career high as Ramses and Ann Baxter as Nefertiti. It also includes memorable smaller roles from Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price and Yvonne De Carlo.
Cecil B. DeMilles final film was The Ten Commandments (a movie he made in the early '20s) and I couldn't think of a better movie to be a directors swan-song.
Picture: Just in time for Easter, Paramount has dusted off this classic '50s epic and scrubbed it for a UHD release. So, maybe a lot of you are not aware that even standard HD releases has to have a high standard for original material and this of course goes double for UHD titles. The Ten Commandments which is over sixty-years old looks simply incredible. The lavish big color film literally pops in this UHD medium. The overall image retains a high level of detail and truly showcases the Oscar nominated cinematography by Loyal Griggs (Shane). The color also has a nice uptick and thankfully, it does not look overly bright or over processed. There is no artifacts or scratches to be found what so ever. Expectations are high for such a visually stunning movie on UHD and I can say that Paramount has knocked this one out of the park.
Sound: Some may be disappointed that this does not include a Dolby Atmos track but re-uses their 5.1 track instead. Thankfully though, this track is extremely well done. The robust score and sound design comes through nicely, especially given a film from the late '50s. This track in my opinion a layered complex offering that sounds nice on a surround sound system.
Extras: Audio Commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of "Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic The Ten Commandments", Newsreel footage of the film's New York premiere, Theatrical trailers, including at 10-minute "making of" trailer, An introduction by DeMille, an intermission, an overture/exit music card, and an entr'acte card, along with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack.
Extras are on both the UHD and HD discs. The entire film is included on the UHD disc and the HD version of the movie is split up into two discs.