They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. In the last 67 years, few films have truly been able to match Cecil B. DeMille’s epic The Ten Commandments in scope or scale. The staggering 1956 production – at the time the most expensive film ever made – smashed box office records, thrilled audiences and critics alike, and was showered in awards. Today, it is quite rightly considered one of the finest examples of a true Golden Age cinema epic. But if you look deeper, is it a good film?
Recently treated to a mesmerising restoration, this 4K re-release of the beloved classic is an absolute feast for the eyes. Shot in VistaVision with Technicolor, this breathtaking transfer of the film reveals magnificent detail while the HDR brings the gorgeous Technicolor to life. Unsurprisingly, the Oscar-winning visual effects show their age in this enhanced resolution – but even so, they are still a mind-boggling achievement when you consider the age of the film. This is one of those 4K discs that is absolutely reference quality, and worth picking up just to demo your system and hit back at the naysayers who inexplicably believe 4K is only necessary for newer titles. The quality here is biblical.
Beyond the visuals, the film is a rather standard biblical drama. All the hallmarks are there, the most prevalent being the lengthy runtime that clocks in just shy of four hours. But this is a film that is worth watching for its’ craft. Martin Scorsese said “I’ve seen The Ten Commandments maybe forty or fifty times. Forget the story – you’ve got to – and concentrate on the special effects, and the texture, and the colour”. This certainly rings true. There’s a hell of a lot to love in the film’s visual flair, but not so much in the narrative that often feels preachy and far longer than it needs to be. There are some great performances at the core of it – Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner are brilliant – but some of the supporting cast are hammier than Babe.
Despite narrative missteps, The Ten Commandments is a remarkable reminder of the power of cinema back in the day – and it looks absolutely divine in 4K.
The Ten Commandments is available now in 4K Ultra HD from Paramount Home Entertainment