The Ten Commandments on DVD
Cecil B. DeMille crafted whats arguably the ultimate in cinematic pageantry
with this tale of the life of Moses.
The spectacular movie, a staple on TV each spring, stars Charlton Heston in
the role of the deliverer of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt. There isnt
a lot of need to get into the storyline here, since we believe that everyone
and his dog has seen this movie at least once by now. Suffice it to say that
this sprawling cast of thousands epic is not only a moving religious
tale but a story of the best and the worst of what makes us human
The cast is outstanding. Hestons screen presence is magnificent and he
makes a terrific Moses, the Prince of Egypt who throws it all away so he can
do whats right. Yul Brynner is equally magnetic as Rameses, the evil and
jealous son of Sethi wholl stop at nothing to cement his hold on the throne.
Then theres Sethi himself, played exquisitely by Sir Cedric Hardwicke,
Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), and all the great supporting actors including such
names as Edward G. Robinson, Debra Paget, John Derek, Vincent Price, Yvonne
de Carlo. They bring star power, indeed but more important they bring
skill, talent and credibility to their roles.
The sets and the special effects are also top notch, though the effects are
limited by 1950s technology. But the parting of the Red Sea and some of
the shots of Egypt at the height of its glory are real toys for the eyes. And
this DVD is the best way so far to see them.
Thats because Paramounts DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen,
16x9 TV compatible, and this means that those whove only seen the film
on TV are in for a treat because they can now see the shots as they were crafted,
with no panning and scanning. So you see more wonder, more epic, more scale.
This was made even more welcome by our experience with ABC TV's broadcast of
the film a few days before the DVD arrived: even on their HDTV feed they ran
the Pan&Scan version! Shame on ABC!
Alas, the film really deserves a good restoration and remastering because while
this is probably the best version of the Ten Commandments to date, it doesnt
appear to be as good as it could be. The colors are bright and rich, and close-ups
generally look very good, but overall theres a aged look and some smeariness/runniness
to the colors that would probably be taken care of with a good restoration.
And of all the films that get restored these days, one would think this one
would be high on the list. We hope they take care of this and re-release the
DVD with a new, glorious set of clothes that befit its glorious look and its
position in movie history.
Audios pretty good. Its supposedly presented in Dolby Digital 5.1
surround and though we didnt notice a lot of surround, the overall audio
quality is very good. The musical score stretches across the front three channels
beautifully, sweeping us up with the epic scale of the production. The dialogue
is located (as it should be) at the center channel, but the quality isnt
as good as the musics.
This is a two disc set that stretches the 220 minute movie over the two discs,
broken at intermission. Were glad they chose the proper place for the
changeover, where it makes logical sense. Such
is not always the case with multi-disc DVDs.
Extras include a very interesting, though somewhat repetitive at times, running
commentary by Katherine Orrison, who wrote Written in Stone Making
Cecil B. DeMilles Epic, The Ten Commandments. She has some fascinating
bits of knowledge and knows where all the mattes begin and end. Theres
also a six part documentary on the film, a newsreel of its premier in New York,
and some trailers. It's a good mix of stuff.
This is one of those films that should be in the library of all who love movies
at their biggest and best. While it isnt as good as William Wylers
Ben-Hur, its more spectacular and is still
a wonderful movie in its own right.
The Ten Commandments, from Paramount Home Entertainment
220 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne
De Carlo, Debra Paget,
Written by Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, Fredrick M. Frank
Produced and Directed by Cecil B. Demille
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