Charlton Heston’s Signature Role As Moses
Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments needs no introduction. One of the most popular and lasting films of all time, the iconic blockbuster is a product of a different era in Hollywood. The Biblical epic starring Charlton Heston is an unqualified masterpiece, remaining one of cinema’s most important and inspiring films.
Wonderfully depicting the story of Moses leading God’s people from bondage in Egypt as told in the Bible, Cecil B. DeMille crafts a magnificent and powerful film that has always resonated with believers and general audiences. The classic 1956 film wasn’t DeMille’s first crack at the biblical story. The great director’s silent film adaptation in 1923 served as an early trial run for his late-career magnum opus.
The Ten Commandments is a nigh perfect dramatization of Moses’s life
The Ten Commandments is a nigh perfect dramatization of Moses’s life
Every element of the lavish production meshes perfectly in The Ten Commandments, resulting in a beloved classic from Hollywood’s golden age. The masterful storytelling, superb writing, supreme acting from the truly all-star cast, incredible production values, groundbreaking special effects, and DeMille’s Midas touch all come together for unforgettable cinema. It is a stunning cinematic achievement still felt today.
Born of Hebrew slaves, the baby Moses is taken in by the Pharaoh’s daughter and made a prince of Egypt. Reaching adulthood unaware of his true origins, Moses passionately loves the beautiful princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter). She is destined to wed the next ruler of Egypt by law.
A rivalry develops between Moses and Pharaoh’s son with both men vying to become the next ruler of Egypt. Rameses (Yul Brynner) is a calculating antagonist, devoted on becoming Pharaoh and marrying Nefretiri. Moses is a heroic man of the people yearning for their freedom from slavery. Nefretiri wants Moses on the throne.
Ultimately Moses discovers his true purpose in life and heeds God’s call, leading the Israelites out of their 400-hundred-year bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses passes God’s Ten Commandments to the Israelites, moral rules made by God himself for His people. Cecil B. DeMille is careful in crafting the movie from a biblical perspective, lending an inspirational power to The Ten Commandments few Hollywood creations have ever reached.
The cast is a who’s who of Hollywood stars from the ’50s. Besides the signature lead roles by Heston and Brynner, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Debra Paget, Yvonne De Carlo, Anne Baxter and other household names all appear.
Yul Brynner is a perfect foil and counterpart to Heston’s Moses. Playing the hard-hearted Rameses, a cold-blooded Egyptian prince, Brynner carries himself with an air of steel-eyed authority and gravitas that almost steals the show from Heston. I say almost because Heston is remarkable as Moses. The iconic movie star exudes a commanding presence with a leading charisma that makes you forget this is mere cinema. It’s the performance that made Charlton Heston one of history’s greatest movie stars. His indelible “Let My People Go!” admonitions to Pharaoh are incredibly memorable deliveries.
The Ten Commandments is a nigh perfect dramatization of Moses’s life and story of the Jewish people escaping bondage in Egypt. Cecil B. DeMille’s epic is one of the most successful and influential movies ever made, an important milestone in Hollywood history.
Paramount delivers a gorgeous, film-like 4K presentation with subtly vibrant HDR and Dolby Vision passes. The vivid colors from the opulent Egyptian settings and costumes sparkle with delightful hues. Pay attention to the vivacious outfits worn by Rameses and how the aqua teal colors stand out. Deep crimson and cyan shades have amazing depth and life. The wardrobe comes to life in subtle brilliance. Saturated primary colors dazzle in a way not possible with ordinary 1080P video.
The Ten Commandments is beautifully filmed in expansive 1.78:1 VistaVision cinematography with exacting detail and tableaux compositions. Paramount gave the original VistaVision film negative an amazing 6K film restoration in 2010, which subsequently was utilized for the initial Blu-ray release. The raw film scan offers fantastic fine detail and shockingly crisp definition.
That same remarkably tuned transfer serves as the basis for this stupendous 2160P presentation, now enhanced with the expanded color palette afforded by new HDR and Dolby Vision. It’s a stunning technical achievement that draws out more detail and color from the negative than ever before.
Paramount shares the following information about the arduous work preparing this UHD:
As part of the restoration done in 2010, the film was scanned in 6K and those files were the basis for this brand new Dolby Vision version, which shows off the full beauty of the original VistaVision negative… In addition, Paramount spent well over 150 hours doing new color work and clean-up on the scan. The move to Dolby Vision created the opportunity to further improve the look of the film: blacks are enhanced and improvements were made to smooth out special effects mattes to create the most vibrant and pristine image possible.
The picture quality results are impressive, done with meticulous care and authenticity by professionals aiming for the utmost fidelity and faithfulness. While the resolution is mildly more impressive than preceding Blu-ray editions, it is the careful grading that teases out new hints of color and shadow in The Ten Commandments that have never been seen in this quality. Shadow delineation is sublime with the deepest of inky black levels. The film elements are in fantastic condition with a pristine contrast.
The Ten Commandments receives a perfect HEVC encode on a triple-layer UHD, always a worry when the main feature runs almost four hours long. The original film and grain structure is neatly and transparently replicated without visible processing. Special effects like matte lines have been carefully handled, preserving their once-groundbreaking status. Definition and clarity are the highest quality possible for a VistaVision production.
Most want to know if this UHD is a significant improvement over their Blu-rays. It is a marvelous 4K effort that literally cannot be improved by current tech and a truly superlative presentation. If you seek the final word on The Ten Commandments on video, look no further than this immaculate Dolby Vision presentation. Technically perfect with dazzling color, it’s one of the finest digital reproductions of classic film ever struck.
The fantastic 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is carried over from prior Blu-rays. Composer Elmer Bernstein’s grand score sounds better than ever in crisp fidelity and lush quality. Fine stereo separation upfront with solid dynamic range and clean, intelligible dialogue. There is a surprising amount of surround presence for audio recorded in the ’50s.
It’s a tasteful surround mix with most action concentrated towards the front soundstage. Rear environmental noises creates atmosphere when called for in the larger crowd scenes.
Most films made during the monaural era largely deliver unsatisfying audio compared to modern soundtracks. The Ten Commandments is a clear exception with solid bass, clean highs, and engaging music. The recording has a pleasing richness with smooth clarity. Discrete separation helps bolster some of the epic’s biggest moments.
Optional English, English SDH, German and French subtitles play in a white font on the UHD. Original French and German dubs are available on UHD as dual mono 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks.
If you aren’t picking up this set for the picture quality bump made possible by 4K resolution and HDR, there isn’t much to get excited here for fans that already own the movie on Blu-ray. The three-disc set comes with one UHD and two Blu-rays, though the Blu-rays merely duplicate earlier releases of the film. The only special feature found on the UHD is the excellent but previously released audio commentary. The other special features listed are on the Blu-rays, brought over from prior releases.
A slipcover is available, one that nicely reproduces original art from the movie. Many were disappointed that Paramount didn’t include the 1923 version in this set. Paramount does include the introduction by DeMille, intermission, an overture/exit music card, and an entr’acte card during the film itself.
The accompanying digital copy redeems in UHD quality on VUDU, iTunes or FandangoNow.
Audio Commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of “Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic The Ten Commandments” – From conception through production in Egypt to the film’s release, Katherine Orrison recreates the story of Cecil B. DeMille’s beloved epic. A huge fan of The Ten Commandments, the author delivers one of the most informative and easy listens I could imagine for a four-hour commentary. She’s amazing in breaking down special effects, anecdotes from the set, behind-the-scenes nuggets, cast members and more in the pleasant discussion. She never bogs down in useless detail and keeps the solo chat entertaining while packed with info. Easily one of the best commentaries I’ve heard in recent memory.
Newsreel: The Ten Commandments Premiere (02:24 in HD) – Original newsreel footage of the film’s New York premiere.
The Ten Commandments Theatrical Trailers (12:40 in HD) – Three separate trailers, including a 10-minute “making-of” trailer from 1956. Also included are trailers for re-releases in 1966 and 1989.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Cecil B. DeMille’s moving masterpiece remains one of the most important and successful Hollywood epics ever devised.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 130 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: