Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"So it is written, so shall it be"

I just finished watching the approximately four hours of the newly restored version of The Ten Commandments [Blu-ray], 1956, with Charlton Heston as Moses. It is beautifully restored—surely one of the best ever restorations. I think I can recall seeing it in a theater when it first came out and I surely saw it on black and white TV in the mid-sixties and later, but I hadn't seen it in years. I think only Ben Hur comes anywhere close to its quality among the biblical epics of the time—a time before CGI when spectacle actually depended on a "cast of thousands."

John Nolte's review begins with a quotation from Cecil B. De Mille's introduction to the film:
"The theme of this picture is whether man ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Ramses. Are men property of the State, or are they free souls under God? This same battle continues throughout the world today...."
Nolte's response to the DVD is as enthusiastic as mine:
What’s most remarkable about the new Blu-ray is that it is easily the most beautiful film I’ve ever screened on television. Though the print I saw in the theatre Thursday night was a full, frame by frame restoration and jaw-dropping all on its own, the Blu-ray is, impossibly, even more beautiful. The VistaVision widescreen Technicolor pops right off the screen in ways I didn’t think possible. The richness of the colors, the stability of the blacks, and the details of everything, including fabrics and architecture, pull you deeper and deeper into the world of the film. ....

Though God is obviously DeMille’s star, Heston is the sun around which everything else revolves. His ability to speak some very difficult lines with complete sincerity is probably the greatest testament to his abilities as an actor. For any actor, that kind of straightforward dialogue, much of it spoken as grand proclamations, is a tightrope without a net. The risk of looking foolish is enormous and yet Heston never comes close. It’s a legendary and iconic performance no amount of words can do justice. ....  [more]
Big Hollywood ‘Ten Commandments’ Review:’ Cecil B. DeMille’s Masterpiece Arrives on Blu-ray Today