One of the greatest film epics is celebrating 50 years with a three-disc DVD collection issued today.
“The Ten Commandments,” produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses, was a Technicolor Paramount Picture in 1956 clocking in at 220 minutes.
It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It took home the statuette for Best Special Effects; its “parting of the Red Sea” sequence is still legendary.
DeMille, already well known for “Samson and Delilah” and “The Greatest Show on Earth,” was 75 years old when he completed “The Ten Commandments.” He had previously tackled the story, making a silent, 136-minute version in 1923 with silent-film stars Theodore Roberts as Moses and Charles de Rochefort as Ramses.
The DVD set includes both the 1956 “Technicolor extravaganza” and the 1923 version, as well as several special features.
Notable among them is a six-part documentary on: Moses; The Chosen People; Land of the Pharaohs; The Paramount Lot; The Score; and Mr. DeMille.
Other features include: a commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments; a newsreel on the 1956 New York premiere; and various trailers for the film. Chief among them is the 1956 “making of” trailer featuring DeMille himself, giving audiences a rationale for the film in an extended look at the biblical story and its big-screen translation.
But aside from the film itself—which solidified Heston’s star status—the six-part documentary gives the DVD set added value. The documentary includes interviews with Heston, Cecilia DeMille Presley (DeMille’s granddaughter), Eugene Mazzola (who played Ramses’ son) and several other actors who appeared in the film.
The documentary combines these interviews with production stills and movies, and footage from the film itself to offer some history about the film that took DeMille five years to make. Viewers will learn about the heart attack DeMille suffered during shooting, the cameo by Heston’s own infant son, shooting on top of Mt. Sinai, and an especially interesting story from DeMille’s granddaughter about shooting privileges in Egypt.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
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