The Ten Commandments (1956)
Reviewed on 2008 March 17
There are a few firm holiday traditions in the House of Shukti, and some of those involve movies. I have to watch It’s A Wonderful Life at least once at Christmastime, Halloween isn’t over without a screening of the original Night of the Living Dead, and it’s just not Easter without snacking on dates and figs while sitting through The Ten Commandments. It’s gaudy, artificial and at times saccharine, between the syrupy music and the campy acting. All the same things can be said of marshmallow Peeps® but Easter would be missing something without those, too.
Cecil B. DeMille’s epic follows the story of Moses, from his birth mother giving him up to save him to the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. This gives us 220 minutes of epic. If you buy the DVD you even get a little foreword from DeMille himself, plus the overture and intermission. If you wait for a station to air it around Easter you still get all the corny goodness of the movie. Charlton Heston plays the adult Moses, and while I’ve never seen a blue-eyed, blonde-haired native Levantine, I really don’t much care. Moses goes from being a palace rival to Rameses (Yul Brynner) to the Deliverer promised to the slaves. It’s an amazing story in any context, plus we get to see Moses wander in the desert (complete with more hammy narration from DeMille), some special effects during the plagues visited on Egypt that were amazing for 1956, and some gorgeous costumes. We ladies also get to see many scenes of Yul Brynner wearing not much more than battle armor and a scowl on his handsome face, but I digress. Since some of the movie was actually shot in Egypt the scenery is incredible too.
I’ll put aside my affection for this to admit it shows its age, very strongly in some places. What keeps it going is the sense that campy or not, DeMille really meant it when he made this thing.
Four chocolate morsels.