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THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

PARAMOUNT HOME VIDEO

Moses: "I have fifteen commandments!" (one of the three tablets falls to the ground, shattering in pieces.) Moses: "I have TEN commandments!" ----- Mel Brooks

It never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished by an actor whose confident and charismatic power is so strong that he can appear to over-ride and cancel out the most ludicrous of dialogue, the  most amateurish of costars, the most stilted direction, the most incompetent special effects this side of Ed Wood, a gaggle of gaudily costumed chorus girls who look as if they were kidnapped from a local carny show (and weren't happy about it) and the ponderous and pontificating narration by a director deep into his dotage.

 Not one, but two such actors (Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner) dominate and enrich Cecil B. DeMille's unquestionably stupendous second version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and they single-handedly turn what could have been a wearying 220 minute journey into an exhilarating and compelling duel not only between Moses and the Pharaoh, but between two well-matched and strong- willed actors who appear eager to out-do each other at every possible juncture. I dare anyone to doze off when these two electrifying titans face off with each other.

If I give the impression that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS would be unwatchable without them, nothing could be further from the truth. While DeMille could never direct actors or intimate scenes, he was an absolute master with crowd scenes. The man had probably the best eye for staging truly B-I-G scenes of any director ever. And this epic is chock-full of enough brilliantly staged gargantuan scenes to fill ten DeMille films, and the fact that after all these years it remains a holiday favorite is completely understandable.

 For purposes of this review, I compared the original two-disc release with the new "special collector's edition" and I could detect no discernable visual difference between the two , both of which exhibited a better than average widescreen image enhanced for16:9 tv's. There appears to be a modest improvement in the 5.1 surround sound, the main beneficiary of which is the excellent Elmer Bernstein score. There are new extra features, however, including commentary by a DeMille historian, as well as a good 6-part documentary.

 If you missed the original release, purchase of this new edition of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a no-brainer. Despite its massive helpings of  Hollywood excess and kitsch, or indeed perhaps because of them, Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is the perfect antidote to those unfortunates who have been benumbed by the exploitive mega-violence and unrelenting darkness and pessimism of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. 

--DICK DINMAN

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