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The Ten Commandments (Two-Disc Special Edition) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Rating: G
  • Discs: 2
  • Studio: Paramount
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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The Ten Commandments - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle

Purchase The Ten Commandments (2 Disc Special Edition) on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

“Blockbuster” is one of movie marketing’s most over-used terms   However, The Ten Commandments, one of the first films to deserve this description, still does  55 years later, in its initial Blu-Ray release. This film is special from the beginning. A formal “Overture”  precedes Cecil B. De Mille himself stepping before the mic to deliver a formal introduction.  The cast is a veritable who’s who of 1950’s silver screen stars headed by Charlton Heston (Moses), Yul Brynner (Ramses), and Anne Baxter (Nefertiti). It certainly did not hurt that Cecil B called the shots, reprising his silent screen triumph with the same title. Audiences appreciated the collective efforts of actors, directors, and cinematographers, as The Ten Commandments has grossed the equivalent of nearly one billion dollars in today’s currency. This picture was nominated for seven Oscars but had the misfortune of competing with the eventual best picture winner, Around the World in 80 Days. To no one’s surprise, it did take home the honors for visual effects.

The story is based on the Book of Exodus.  In the Hollywood tradition, there are some apocryphal events and extraneous characters that add to the entertainment value without doing significant harm to the original story. In spite of a running time of nearly 4 hours, (about 10 more minutes than the previous DVD versions), there is enough cinematic momentum to prevent viewer fatigue.   The huge scope of this film, with its sizable cast and extras, set against the backdrop of ancient Egypt is well served by  the Technicolor® shoot.

If this production has a consistent weakness it derives from the stilted and occasionally campy dialogue, delivered with the admirably straight faces of the cast. However, this can be overlooked in an otherwise over-the-top spectacle that paved the way for its many successors.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Given the age of the original prints, the restoration results are magnificent. The VistaVision® picture is quite vivid with a trace of softness around the edges. Of course, the  sets and costumes are simply overwhelming, befitting the huge scope of this film.  This is Hollywood in one of its finest hours which makes for continuous viewing pleasure. Special effects abound-Moses’ staff  turning to serpents, the Nile River changing to blood, and the fiery finger of God inscribing the ten commandments. Of course, we all wait for the parting of the Red Sea which, in its day, was the most spectacular special effect ever to be achieved in films. In today’s cinematic world of CGI effects, this scene, which was done with clever animation, may look dated, but it still grabs one’s attention as it did more than 50 years ago.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The DTS-HD-Master Audio soundtrack is reasonably good for its vintage, with a little compression in its louder sections.  Elmer Bernstein’s sweeping score supported the action perfectly. It underscores the epic nature of the story yet does not intrude on the more personal and intimate moments between the characters.  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  As in its original theatrical release, which I saw in 1956, there are, mercifully, no gratuitous efforts to fill the surround channels with special effects.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

In this standard Blu-ray release, additional materials are skimpy, consisting of theatrical trailers and newsreel coverage of the film’s premiere. There is also an interesting and perceptive commentary by Katherine Orrison, a well-known film authority, who has devoted much of her career to DeMille’s films.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

The Ten Commandments is the grand-daddy of all biblical epics and sets a standard in its scope that has never been surpassed.  Charlton Heston became an established film icon with his portrayal of Moses, possibly his finest work among the many larger-than-life roles that he took on during his long and distinguished career.  The supporting cast is generally stellar, with special kudos to Brynner and Baxter as Ramses and Nefertiri. Even the lessor roles are taken by some great stars of the era (Edward G. Robinson, John Derek, Yvonne DeCarlo, Debra Paget, Judith Anderson, Cedric Hardwicke and John Carradine).  But the real star of this film is the amazing cinematography which is well served by this outstanding restoration. This film’s only noticeable weakness is its dialogue’s generally stilted quality. If you have never seen The Ten Commandments or if you have seen it only on DVD, you simply must see this Blu-ray version to understand what the stir was all about a half-century ago. Strongly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004IK30LE[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
The Ten Commandments - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle

Purchase The Ten Commandments (2 Disc Special Edition) on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Great review- but THE TEN COMMANDMENTS lost the 1956 Best Picture Oscar to AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, not to BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. The latter won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1957.

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