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(Special Collector's Edition)

Without hesitation, I can honestly say that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ($20) is indeed one of the great cinematic spectacles of all time. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is also a film that Iíve seen more than twenty times, and I am sure, I will see it at least another twenty times. At the very least, I am what one would call "a fan" of this particular religious epic. Directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a larger-than-life film that tells a larger-than-life story in a larger-than-life manner. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a motion picture that was made on a grand scale, with so much attention lavished on every detail that one might think that Cecil B. DeMille was able to resurrect ancient Egypt from the sands of time. Now, as much as I may extol the virtues of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, even this die-hard fan is not oblivious to its flaws. Some of the dialogue is stilted to the point that I am amazed that the actors get it out straight faced, plus some of the performances come across as hammy, while other seem just plain wooden. Even with these flaws in mind, there is not a single frame of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that I do not enjoy watching.

The plot of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS follows the birth of the infant Moses (Fraser Heston), born the son of Hebrew slaves in ancient Egypt, who is saved from the Pharaohís deadly edict, when he is found drifting in a basket on the Nile, and adopted into the royal family by Bithiah (Nina Foch). Grown into a Prince of Egypt, the adult Moses (Moses) is favored by the Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) over his own son Rameses (Yul Brynner), and loved by the thrown princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter). When his true origins are discovered, Moses (Charlton Heston) finds himself cast out of Egypt, and after making a new life for himself as a shepherd; God finally reveals to Moses that he is the promised deliverer who will lead the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt. The sterling cast of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS also features Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Judith Anderson, Vincent Price, Debra Paget, John Derek, Martha Scott and John Carradine.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE TEN COMMANDMENTS available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. It should be noted that this is the same transfer that was utilized for the filmís first DVD release in 1999, and for the time, it was an astonishingly good presentation of a classic Technicolor film. Still, this five-year-old transfer produces colors that leap off the screen, as well as making the movie look wonderful most of the time, especially on a 4:3 direct view display. However, viewing THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on a large wide screen projection display, one will notice more of the little inconsistencies in the image, as well as a slight softness in places, especially in scenes with optically printed special effects. Despite its flaws, the presentation remains very pleasing and gives one a good indication of what an original IB Technicolor print might have looked like. Unprocessed photography produces a fairly sharp image and good definition, which allows one to appreciate the filmís marvelous production design and costuming. In almost all cases, the wonderfully vibrant Technicolor hues are rendered with excellent stability. Blacks are inky, whites are clean and contrast is generally good (although it can be a bit skewed in shots that contain optical special effects). Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS comes with a very nicely remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Across the forward soundstage, one will find that the sound has an impressive sweep, especially in regards to Elmer Bernsteinís impressive musical score. Surrounds are nicely deployed in the mix and there are a few instances of discrete activity. Sound effects and musical fidelity arenít up to modern standards, but for a film edging towards its fiftieth anniversary, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS does impress. The bass channel is suitably solid and does add more than sufficient rumble to key scenes. Dialogue comes across in a more natural manner than it did prior to this 5.1 remix, and it is always completely intelligible. An English Dolby Surround and French language soundtrack have also been encoded into the DVD, as have English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some very good supplemental content. First up is a running audio commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMilleís Epic, The Ten Commandments. Unquestionably, this is one of the best audio commentaries that Iíve heard in quite some time. Katherine Orrison is an engaging speaker, whose commentary is just overflowing with production information, anecdotes and trivia.

On disc two, one will find the remaining supplemental programming. The chief supplement is a six-part documentary on the making of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Running thirty-seven minutes in total, the documentary is broken up into the following segments: Moses, The Chosen People, The Land Of The Pharaohs, The Paramount Lot, The Score, and Mr. DeMille. Newsreel footage of the filmís premiere, plus the 1956, 1966 and 1989 theatrical trailers close out the supplements. A final comment: canít say I am particularly fond of the case that houses the two DVDs, as it requires the removal of the first disc to access the second.

As I stated above, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is one of the great cinematic spectacles of all time. Paramountís presentation of the film remains very, very good and the additional supplemental content is most welcome. If you are die-hard fan of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, is a worthwhile upgrade. If you donít have a copy of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in your collection, then this DVD is the way to go. Recommended.



The Ten Commandments (Special Collector's Edition) (1956)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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