Let My People a-go-go

Watching  1956’s The Ten Commandments again. It has been decades since I last watched it from the beginning. I would catch glimpses when it would show up on TCM almost every other month. I had forgotten it was a comedy. 

Drowning in hysterical historical inaccuracies it’s hard to tell where to begin though the most obvious is the costumes – particularly for the women wearing fabrics & colours that never existed in the 1300 BCE time era – not that I’m expecting documentary realism but any means. Then there’s there architecture – grand halls with black marble floors that have never been excavated.

The use of language is laugh-out-loud funny, the delivery so leaden, the constant ‘Moses Moses’ – a name so nice everyone has to say it twice. Speaking of Moses Moses – Heston gives a performance that is so wooden I was surprised he didn’t burst into flame when he stood in front of the burning  bush. Brenner gives a regal performance as Rameses II as if this were The Moses Moses & I. Anne Baxter is the real star with her insinuating, sinuous work at Nefretiri. She nails Rameses balls to the floor with a glance. Good too is Edward G Robinson’s sly, cunning & manipulative Dathan.

I can’t not mention the dazzling colours made even more lurid in High Definition. The movie suffers in HD though – without the pebble screen to diffuse edges the fx & back screens are obvious. The parting of the Red Sea is still wonderful but I found the closing of it to be even more amazing. Not amazing was the bad aging makeup on Heston – the greying of his hair was more akin to a high school drama production than a Hollywood epic. His wooly white beard & head of hair at the end was distractingly fake.

I loved seeing this again. Epic myth making at its finest. Biblical scholarship at its most Technicolor.

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