Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Ten Commandments (1956)

I'm finally commiting to it.

Despite my numerous references to this film in the past, I've had the idea to cover it in recent years but just now have gotten around to it. And it was about time for a rewatch cause the last time I sat down for this almost 4 hour epic was when I was still in high school, so what do I think about a movie I've known since I was but a tall young boy? Though I am not a religious person, though I am not a practitioner in the Judeo-Christian belief, I very much like this film! While I'm about to burst everyone's collective bubble on the fact that the book of Exodus in the bible is entirely fictitious, no historical evidence of israelites has been found in Egypt thus far, it's still a good story that has been told many a time in a non-religious lens. To vastly summarize scripture, tale of a deliverer that will free the slaves of Egypt is foretold and amidst something the bible is quite keen on, infanticide, a baby is found by the royal family and is raised as one of their own with the name of Moses. We flash forward to see him as a strong, caring, and wise leader before the cat's out of the bag and he is cast down as another slave amongst thousands and the subsequent years of his life before his true call to action by the almighty, where he returns to Egypt, saves his people, and brings the laws of God to them. The beauty of having a film almost 4 hours long is the movie can take it's sweet time building the story as strongly as it does and engagingly as it does, it properly feels like an epic in terms of production alone. It could be a whole tome just discussing the production and shooting, the sets are grander than anything I have seen in recent years cause they just had to build it all or they just shot in Egypt and the surrounding areas, the number of extras is staggering to behold we will never see a plethora of people that many in cinemas maybe ever again, it has that old Hollywood shine and gravitas to it to sum it up. It's almost too big a picture to talk about, there's no way I can touch on everything let alone the cast. In terms of the major principal players that are seen throughout, Charlton Heston has that right presence and voice to be a messenger of God as Moses and displays qualities in a leader that I have rarely ever seen in man or woman, and it is so interesting to see all the phases of his life. In fact this film is free real estate for individuals who love doing character studies, it's actually written incredibly well with the character interactions and dynamics, yet another book sized avenue to go down. Yul Brynner as Rameses who I just always love seeing him in movies, is that kind of perfect bad guy where you hate him just enough but you're always interested to see where his story goes, it just works in this movie. Anne Baxter as the princess and soon queen of Egypt Nefretiri nearly takes on this almost Lady Macbeth persona in the story, and this is just an aside and a weird one at that but Anne plays the young version of Moses' adopted mother and Nefretiri but I didn't know that as a young kid so I was ├╝ber weirded out and confused why his mom seemed to have the undying hots for him, but anyway she is the crux of the drama for the story and this isn't a slam I swear, but it gets just a teeny bit soap opera from time to time. Now I blame that more on the classical form on how the story is told and acted, and not so much the time period the movie was made in. Edward G. Robinson is a real devil of a slime as the governor Dathan, he plays it so beautifully but Dathan straight up sucks, lusting after a hebrew girl named Lilia, trying to get any advantage in power and office, and raises a rebellion during the mass exodus, he absolutely is the villain you hiss and boo at! Speaking more on the last part in a bit, but how the film goes about with all the old testament power and wrath of God stuff is frankly unforgettable visuals to me! I remember that as clearly as when I first saw it, the staff that transforms into a cobra, the Nile bleeding red, the fiery hail, the splitting of the Red Sea, the fiery columns of God, and most of all the death of the firstborn. Seeing that eerie green mist drift down in front of a sickly yellow moon has never left me, and if you metalheads needed an excuse it's the perfect day to listen to Creeping Death! My whole stance is if say I was one of the israelites, tormented for God knows how long as a slave, finally made it out and saw these marvels of the Lord, I think I'd just take Moses at his word and not listen to the guy who builds a golden idol out of a calf! Just saying, how does anybody go for that?? Still, it's mighty impressive special effects work for 1956 and I'll be damned if it wasn't still impressive today, especially with the Red Sea. I have no clue how they accomplished that! It really is well crafted in every way, it's not just the flashy or grand sweeping visuals that you're going to come away from at the end. And would you believe it's actually a remake? Cecil B. DeMille directed The Ten Commandments back in 1923, and I am fascinated to know how that movie looked. In fact this was the last movie he directed, passing away three years later in 1959 but talk about going out on top. This is the only religious film I actively will watch, not to say there aren't other good ones out there it's just something I don't seek out. But hey who knows, next Easter we could do something wild like Jesus Christ Superstar. Until then, 4 stars, 8/10! 

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