Saturday, March 23, 2013

314. The Ten Commandments (1956)

Running Time: 220 minutes
Directed By: Cecil B. DeMille
Written By: Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, Fredric M. Frank, from the novels Pillar of Fire by J.H. Ingraham, On Eagle's Wing by A.E. Southon, Prince of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson
Main Cast: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo
Click here to view the trailer


One of the biggest hurtles of the season completed in three tries. That's right, it took me three sit-downs to knock out the film where Charlton Heston portrays Moses (Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon) and just in time for Easter.

Do I really even need to outline the premise here? I mean, don't we ALL know the story of Moses and how he came to carry those two stone tablets down Mt. Sinai? Well, I'm a perfectionist/completist, so I must outline it a little bit anyway. So we pick up with Moses as a baby, in Egypt, where the Pharaoh passes down an edict that all first born Hebrew males are to be killed. Moses' mother, Yoshebel, not wanting him to be slaughtered, places him in a wicker basket and sets him off down the Nile - guess I should mention that Moses is Hebrew. He is found by Bithiah, an Egyptian princess and sister to the reigning Pharaoh. Moses is raised as a prince and does Pharaoh Seti so proud that the Pharaoh even flirts with the idea of making Moses his successor, instead of his own son, Rameses (Brynner). Moses does things that Rameses cannot, including building a city in Seti's honor. At this time, talk begins to form about a deliverer, a person who will come and deliver the Hebrew people from their life as slaves. Rameses is given the task of finding out who the deliverer is and puts his sidekick Dathan (Robinson) on the assignment of finding out the deliverer's name. Skip ahead a bit and Moses FINALLY finds out, after all these years, that he was indeed born a Hebrew and instead of sticking to the good life - the Egyptian life of wearing jewels, head to toe and being, perhaps, the next Pharaoh - he decided to return to his roots. Moses is exiled out of Egypt and goes to Midian, where he meets a shepherd and his seven daughters, one of whom, Sephora (De Carlo), he marries. After this God begins speaking to Moses and we find out that Moses is, in fact, the deliverer. God tells Moses to return to Egypt and free his people from slavery. Moses carries out God's will, had verbal and physical battles with Rameses, where threats of death and pestilence are exchanged. That outta' do ya.

Some of you (particularly those living outside the United States) may be wondering why I mentioned Easter above. Well, for as long as I can remember, on Easter Sunday, one of our major affiliate stations always shows "The Ten Commandments". I'm not really sure why, since Moses has nothing to do with Easter, but they do and always have and in the States at least, it's always been sort of a tradition to be played. I, on the other hand, had never seen the movie from beginning to end, so, in a way, I looked forward to finally checking it off my never ending "bucket list" of "movies to see". I wasn't completely bored with it, although it is the opinion of this blogger that some of the scenes could've been shaved a bit and by the time Moses saw fit to walk those God written ten commandments down the side of Sinai, I was definitely ready for the FIN. However, throughout the picture I was neither blown away, nor was I bored with it. I simply sat there watching as "The Ten Commandments" sort of lulled in mediocrity. It was grand, there's no doubt about that and the special effects, though they look like child's play compared to today's standards, must've had audiences sitting with bulging eyes in 1956. The cast was quite superb, probably realizing that they were in the midst of a film that was about to make a lot of money and wanting to strut their stuff. I've never been a fan of Heston (especially after the way he was portrayed in "Bowling for Columbine"), but Yul Brynner was marvelous (kind of makes me want to see "The King and I" now) and I really enjoyed Anne Baxter too. Now, Edward G. Robinson on the other hand, was a different story, as I just couldn't wrap my head around Eddie G. portraying a biblical era character. Eddie G. was made to be the criminal on the streets, the guy in the noir, lurking in the shadows, not wearing white robes and jewels and eating berries from vines, held by Debra Paget in silk linens.

I'd say my final opinion on "The Ten Commandments" was that it was just okay. It certainly wasn't the worst thing THE BOOK has put me through, nor was it the best. I'm glad I can finally say I've seen it from beginning to end, but I'm glad I'm done with it and I can say with almost complete certainty that I'll never watch it again from, at least intentionally and from cover to cover. The film was a bit dated and I think the audience for this picture existed in the 50s, which probably accounts for a lot of the dough it raked in. I believe that we are a different generation and most likely, the folks who will be sitting down to watch this one this Saturday night, are going to be of a certain demographic and there probably won't be a lot of youngsters amongst them. I think that's all I have to say about that...although those Ten Commandments, be you a believer or not, now there's another list worth checking out, if you haven't already.

RATING: 6/10  Lulling in the mediocrity. It is said that Cecil B. DeMille was a gigantic foot fetishist. I don't know about all that, but he certainly knew how to pick his actresses. Va-va-va voom (sorry honey ;)


March 23, 2013  8:24pm


  1. It is rather hard work isn't it?
    I used to think I liked these huge epics.. but realised you are just supposed to like them.. and they belonged where I usually put things that (and I don't mean just films) are big, brash, lound, expensive, full of 'look at me', but have little depth.
    So, ok, cast of thusands, great effects for the time.. but actually very little to it. (No offence intended about the story meant to people of faith in that comment - just as a film)
    And yes Edward G in a Biblical epic? Sorry, no. I'm afraid it was a distraction.. you expected him to whip out a tommy gun any moment...

    1. I got through it more easily than I thought I would, but yeah it was a chore, no doubt.


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