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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923)


Cecil B. De Mille’s best work was already behind him when he bet Paramount’s bank on his first biblical epic. (In this version, the biblical story is told in a five-reel prologue which only covers the final third of the story De Mille told in his famous 1956 redo.) With art direction and set-ups that closely match the later film, the earlier version is (somehow) more believable than the remake. And though the women are pure ‘20s, there’s livelier direction and even better trick work on the famous effects/miracles. (So much for progress.) Then, it's on to the modern story, which struggles to fit in all the biblical parables & parallels. But it does have its own period charm; Nita Naldi’s great vamp villain; Leatrice Joy’s will-of-the-wisp not-so-good girl; and fine rival brothers in manly Richard Dix & cravenly Rod La Rocque, who pretty much steals the picture. With such a fine print to show off Bert Glennon’s handsome lensing, it’s a shame the Paramount DVD staff wouldn’t pop for a full background score worthy of De Mille’s grand ambitions. (In fact, this edition only comes as an EXTRA , more like an afterthought, on one of the many DVD releases of the famous 1956 version.)

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