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When Sethi, the Egyptian Pharaoh who has enslaved the Jewish people, is told by astrologers that the deliverer of the Hebrews will soon be born to free his people, he demands that all newborn Jewish males be slaughtered. Placed in a basket and floated down the Nile River, the infant Moses is found by Queen Bithiah, Pharoah’s wife, who raises Moses as her own. Years pass. The Pharaoh has his adopted son Moses build a city to be a lasting monument to the Pharaoh himself. Moses shows compassion in dealing with the slaves constructing the city. Pharaoh tells Moses of his place as the next Pharaoh of Egypt.
Princess Nefretiri, who loves Moses, finds out from an embittered servant woman still loyal to Moses’ step-brother, Rameses, that Moses is Hebrew. Nefretiri kills the woman to remove the threat of exposing Moses. However, Moses finds a piece of Semite cloth and his true identity becomes known to him as he travels to Goshen and meets his real mother. His discovery forfeits his Egyptian inheritance: his adopted mother and the throne. Moses returns to the construction of the city and, enraged by the treatment of the Hebrew slaves, kills an Egyptian builder. Thus, his true Hebrew identity is discovered, and he is cast out into the desert by Ramases I, who inherits the throne.
Through the miraculous burning bush incident, Moses receives from God the command to lead the suffering Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and into the promised land. Ten plagues befall the Egyptians, including the death of all their first-born sons, before Ramases allows them to leave. In a stunning sequence at the Red Sea, Moses lifts his hands as the Lord parts the waters for the mass exodus to safely make their way through, but the Egyptians are drowned when they try to follow.
Descending from Mt. Sinai after receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses angrily smashes the stone tablets when he sees the people have built a golden calf. As punishment for their disbelief in God’s might, the Hebrews are forced to wander 40 years in the desert. Finally, they see the promised land, and though Moses does not join them, he lovingly watches as the masses cross the River Jordan into Israel.
A visual guide to the Holy Scriptures, this classic film in re-release is a milestone in motion-picture history, as it once again graces the silver screen with its grandeur. It has overwhelming sets, costuming, action sequences and pageantry that demand a 70mm Cinerama screen. Paramount Pictures is to be commended for the fidelity and quality of the new print: the Technicolor almost leaps out at you, it is so vivid and intense. The music of Elmer Bernstein enhances the film with its dynamism and scope, ranging from the separate themes that serve as leitmotifs throughout, to the weaving of these separate themes during parallel editing of sequences. The grand assemblage of effects, music, and sets does not carry THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on their own. There is skillful writing and fine acting, with Yul Brynner brilliant in his role as Ramesses and Charlton Heston as a vibrant, energetic Moses. In a rare opening monologue, Cecil B. DeMille, a true showman who also produced such epics as SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, and THE KING OF KINGS (1927 version), appears on stage within the movie to describe his finest motion picture. Then, a visual credit is provided to the Holy Scriptures for the story.
DeMille, the son of an Episcopal priest, distributed Bibles to his cast and crew during filming, and insisted on biblical morality for all involved with the production. Once, having climbed to the top of a 103-foot ladder to investigate a broken camera, DeMille suddenly experienced a sharp pain in his chest. Forced to descend the ladder himself, he collapsed when he finally reached the bottom. He was able to get to a chair, and his doctor, after examining him, told him he should quit the film if he wanted to live. DeMille would hear nothing of the sort, and the deeply religious man spent that night in intensive prayer. The next day, he was back on the set, his energy renewed as if nothing had happened. Charlton Heston also took his role with the utmost seriousness, doing take after take until satisfied with the result, and burying himself in Old Testament readings.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS evokes many emotions from the viewer, from excitement to tears. It is a moving portrayal of God’s grand design for man and its origins with Moses and the Jewish people. There cannot be a more highly recommended film for everyone to see. This is movie making at its best.
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