The Ten Commandments is one of the classic American movies that I make plans to watch every Easter weekend. While I feel we’re talking about it every year at AndersonVision, this time is different. We’re getting to watch the movie in true 4K! I know that several people won’t care for any Biblical movies we cover here. Then, there are going to be others that only want us to talk about films like this.
Honestly, I feel like I’ve talked about it so much recently that I’m not heavily focused on talking about the film. So, let’s talk about what you don’t know about it. Did you know there was a decades long debate about who was The Voice of God? DeMille narrated the movie and helped contribute to a lot of the other voiceover performance. But, DeMille’s Publicist and Heston also filled in on other roles at times. Given that all three men are now dead, I’m not sure if we’re ever going to have a concrete answer.
Director Cecil B. DeMille is an oddball director who exclusively lived at Paramount for the final part of his career. What’s weird is how he so closely compares to what we’re seeing in Spielberg during this era. When covering The Greatest Show on Earth earlier this year, something came up in my research. They’re both directors that love to shoot spectacle, but also revel in emotion. While DeMille worked in the early days of Film, setting up later ground rules…Spielberg was the obvious next step.
But, even Spielberg fell out of favor towards the end, while coasting on early success. What is crazy for DeMille is that the last decade of his career produced the more memorable movies. In a way, they felt like movies made by a director who knew his time was running short. DeMille famously had a heart attack while shooting the Exodus, then showed back up on set to finish the shoot.
Biblical movies don’t get the same benefit as later blockbusters. When adjusted for inflation, The Ten Commandments is the box office champ for movies that didn’t see any re-releases. Everything from Gone with the Wind to The Sound of Music to Star Wars and Avatar got re-release campaigns. But, The Ten Commandments had to settle for TV broadcasts every Easter. That’s the double sided curse of being a G rated non-offensive movie.
Playing it up the middle for crowds means that we get movies that can be shown on the basic playing fields. Nothing will shock or offend. Even though, I’ve set through a screening of The Ten Commandments with a younger person who wanted to Fact Check everything onscreen. While it’s fine to have scrutiny, there’s a time and a place to make your pitch reel for Film Twitter. For some reason, Biblical movies get that stuck on them.
While we’ve covered Ten Commandments several times before, I enjoy Paramount bringing their classics to 4K UHD. The Paramount Presents releases are great, but let’s get the legendary classics from the Mountain cleaned up and readied for the next generation. In regards to the Biblical movies, why not? These movies saved Paramount’s bottom line after World War II and carried them into the 1960s. After that point, John Wayne productions picked up the money purse.
There is many things to be said about how Biblical tales rose to such prominence in this period. Given the slow rise in the late 40s to their peak run from 1950-1965, America gave way to The Good Book for a simple reason. Spectacle sells. While I’m not sure that The Ten Commandments could tape into the same Monoculture as before, there is a truth in its success. All theatrical audiences love a shared story with a truth that speaks to their brains and hearts.
The Ten Commandments became the second biggest film of all time during its release not because it’s a giant Epic. The film succeeded by applying a visual language to a story that had been beaten into many through verbal tradition. People don’t want anything new, they want to see the familiar presented in a new way. Whip our your Joseph Campbell and Bullfinch to try and talk me down. It’s a fact, Jack. Plus, we’re going to be talking about it later in our John Wayne coverage.
Charlton Heston’s performance as Moses pales when compared to his turn in Ben-Hur. However, it goes deeper into places that Ben-Hur can’t reach. The 3 discs in this 4K release shine a light on that depth with the special features ported over from the last Blu-ray release. But, the 4K disc has one big perk over the Blu-ray presentation. You’re going to get the entire Ten Commandments on one disc for the first time in home video history.
If that’s not a reason to pick up The Ten Commandments on 4K, then I don’t know what is.