1. Guest,
    If you need help getting to know Xenforo, please see our guide here. If you have feedback or questions, please post those here.
    Dismiss Notice

DVD Review HTF Review: The Ten Commandments 50th Anniversary Edition (with the 1923 version)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by PatWahlquist, Mar 17, 2006.

Tags:
  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2002
    Messages:
    735
    Likes Received:
    1
    [​IMG]
    The Ten Commandments 50th Anniversary Edition

    Note: the review of the 1923 version is towards the bottom.

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Year: 1956 (2006 Release)
    Rated: G
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
    Audio: English DD 5.1/ English 2.0 Surround/ French Mono
    Subtitles: English
    Time: 220 minutes
    Disc Format: 3 DVD-9’s
    Case Style: Fold out Digipak

    After watching “The Ten Commandments” I wondered what led to the film being made. I had an image of director Cecil DeMille sitting at his desk in 1921 reading his Bible and finishing the story of Moses only to look up and say, “I’ve got to film that!” Then, in 1951 thinking, “Y’know, I think I should film it again.” While I sincerely doubt that was the case, “The Ten Commandments” is so big, so epic in its production and presentation that one can only wonder when that spark of an idea was ignited.

    Since “The Ten Commandments” is such a big picture (clocking in at 220 minutes), I could spend several pages detailing the plot of the picture. I had considered doing a cut and paste of the relevant Bible passages or at least providing a link to the same, but I don’t want to cheat anyone.

    When Pharaoh makes and edict that all male children shall be killed to ward off a prophecy, Yochabel takes the baby Moses, places him in a basket and she sends him down the river Nile to save his life. Pharaoh’s sister finds the baby and she decides to take him as her own. The story jumps ahead to find a grown Moses returning to Egypt after conquering Ethiopia for Pharaoh, much to the dismay of Yul Brenner’s Rameses and the delight of Nefretiri (Anne Baxter). A power struggle ensues between the ambitious Rameses and the crowd pleasing Moses, and the ever randy Nefretiri places herself in the middle of the action. When a slave woman becomes trapped by a massive rock, another slave, Joshua, fights off guards to save her. Moses, seeing the compassion of the man, spares his life and declares the slaves shall have more time off. By this act, Moses is revered by the people and his following begins.

    Eventually, the true nature of Moses heritage is discovered. When Moses adopted mother finds Yochabel, she goes to confront her so Moses’ secret remains intact. Yochabel turns out to be the slave woman who was rescued a few minutes earlier, and she criticizes Moses for his ascension to royalty. She tells Moses he is a man of the people, he is not meant to rule them. Moses makes the decision to stay with his true family to find the meaning of who he is, and why a Hebrew, or any man, must be a slave. Moses begins working with the slaves to make the bricks. The other slaves quickly notice him for his hard work, and the ladies for his hunkiness (and lack of whip marks).

    Nefretiri rescues Moses from his toil and she tries to woo him back, but Moses refuses her charms in order to free his people. Moses is brought to Pharaoh for judgment, and due to Rameses fear of Moses’ martyrdom, he sends Moses into the desert. He finds a desert oasis, and with it, a new life, including a wife and child. Moses’ wife points him to a fire in the mountain and he goes off to investigate. He discovers the burning bush and the voice of God, which commands Moses to free God’s people from Pharaoh. Moses returns to Egypt to deliver God’s message to Pharaoh. Rameses quickly denounces Moses and his message, so Moses invokes the power of God to rain plague down upon the Egyptians. The Lord’s Passover commences forcing Ramses to free the Hebrew slaves. Moses takes his freed people to their promised land with Ramses in vengeful pursuit. What follows is the finale of epic cinematic and human proportions.



    Video:
    “The Ten Commandments” is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture is exceptionally bright and vibrant and it displays a beautiful range of colors. Each of the scenes shows a pallet of differing colors that will tax the most discriminating displays. Color delineation was excellent and I noticed no smearing. Flesh tones are accurate and they show subtle differences between each of the actors. Foreground detail is very good, showing fine subtleties in the sets and costumes. Unfortunately, in some of the more panoramic scenes, background detail begins to smear. Edge enhancement is visible throughout the picture. Black levels are good and they show detail in the shadows. I noticed only a couple instances of film dirt. About sixteen minutes into disc two there is a sudden influx of print dirt, or at least the remnants of the cleaning process. You are able to see covered over dirt and several spots of picture shimmer. It is strange this one place suddenly looks so bad in an overall excellent looking picture. This appears to be the same transfer as the previous release, although this one looks just a bit more “digital” to me.


    Audio:
    I watched this disc with the 5.1 track engaged. In older films, I usually like to watch them with the original mono or stereo tracks as they are closer to the original theatrical presentation. However, I deviated from this practice as I was interested to see what a 5.1 track would do to this epic production. In only a few scenes do the rear channels open up to add ambience to the scene (wind and voice effects when Moses treks through the desert and the hail storm, for example). The scene where the seas are parted to allow the Hebrews to pass on to the promised land also utilize the surrounds and LFE to fairly good effect. Parts of the scores also spread out to the surrounds. Overall, there is not much need for a 5.1 track. LFE effects were sparse at best. The audio is very clear and free of any noise or hiss.


    Bonus Material: The commentary and documentary are ported over from the 2004 DVD.

    Feature Commentary by Katherine Orrison, Author of “Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments: I skimmed parts of each chapter. Orrison gives quite a bit of detail about the production, the actors and the sets. A good commentary one would expect from the author of such a book on this picture.

    6 Part Documentary: This is broken up into the following chapters, “Moses” (7:27), “The Chosen People”(5:00), “Land of the Pharaohs”(9:00), “The Paramount Lot”(6:50), “The Score” (4:00), “Mr. DeMille” (6:25).
    There are numerous cast and crew recollections, as well as behind the scenes pictures and on the set photos. These documentaries cover casting, the on location sets in Egypt and the US, and more.

    Newsreel: “The Ten Commandments” Premier in New York: Archival footage of the NYC opening

    Trailers: 1956 “Making of” Trailer, 1966 Trailer, 1989 Trailer: The “Making of” trailer has DeMille talking about the Hebrew text, Moses, Heston, inspirations for the picture, and the production. The other trailers are very basic. All of them are anamorphic.

    Addendum 3/23/06: A thread popped up on HTF discussing potential missing music from TTC. For you completists out there, I suggest you look here: http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...hreadid=253882

    The Ten Commandments – 1923 Version

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Year: 1923 (2006 Release)
    Rated: Not Rated
    Aspect Ratio: Full screen
    Audio: English stereo
    Subtitles: Francais
    Time: 136 minutes

    What sets this new set apart from previous releases is the inclusion of DeMille’s 1923 version of the silent film version of “The Ten Commandments”. The 1923 version takes the biblical story and compresses it in the beginning of the picture. The story then moves to 1923 and the Exodus story is used as an allegory for modern characters. I did not watch this version in its entirety, but instead I skipped through the chapters to evaluate picture and sound quality.


    Video and Audio:
    The 4x3 black and white image is excellent. Paramount has taken great care in restoring the picture as it is free from almost any dirt. It shows exceptional detail for its age and condition, although you will notice several instances of shimmering. Much like Warner’s release of the original “King Kong” last year, these types of problems are unavoidable with pictures this old. Grey scale is accurate, blacks are deep and whites are smooth and clean. The audio track is in stereo and it is great presentation of the organ music that accompanies the film. The music is clean, fresh and clear, and I often noticed the LFE kicking in to enhance the lower notes.


    Bonus Material: This version and its bonus material are all on disc three of the set.

    Feature Commentary by Katherine Orrison, Author of “Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments: As with the other commentary, I skimmed parts of each chapter. Orrison gives quite a bit of detail about the production, the actors and the sets.

    Hand-tinted Footage of the Exodus and Parting of the Red Sea Sequence: This is an interesting demonstration of an attempt to colorize the picture. It is actually not badly done, but as with most colorization processes, it is unnecessary.


    Conclusions:
    Although this is basically a re-release of a previous disc, Paramount has enhanced it a bit by providing us with a piece of cinematic history in the form of the 1923 silent version. They also give us a nice window box packaging. “The Ten Commandments” shows us a bygone Hollywood at its finest, when epic productions truly delivered.
     
  2. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 1999
    Messages:
    7,982
    Likes Received:
    244
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    Nice review Pat. Some screenshots would be nice to see the "digital look" you refer too? I sold the original release a few years back awaiting the Special Collector's Edition and never got it. Now wondering if I should get that one over this one...
     
  3. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2002
    Messages:
    735
    Likes Received:
    1
    By "digital", it just seemed a bit over processed, looking more video-like than film-like, if that makes sense.
     
  4. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2003
    Messages:
    1,189
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for the review, Pat. By picture "shimmer", are you referring to gate weave?
     
  5. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2000
    Messages:
    15,249
    Likes Received:
    256
    Location:
    London, England
    Real Name:
    Steve Christou
    Thanks for the review. Since the only big difference between this edition and the previous 'special edition' is the inclusion of the creaky 1923 silent, I'll pass, no triple dip for me. Next time I buy Ten Commandments will probably be in about 5 years time and it won't be on standard DVD.
     
  6. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2001
    Messages:
    1,376
    Likes Received:
    6
    Real Name:
    Christian Preischl
    Here's a portion of the DVD Town review that might be of some interest.


    Source: DVD Town review

    I don't know too much about the technicalities of the silent era to know if this assessment is correct. But it doesn't sound good.
     
  7. Armin Jager

    Armin Jager Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2004
    Messages:
    135
    Likes Received:
    0

    I wouldn't pay any attention to reviews by people who have no idea about silent films ... standardized at 16 frames, what a silly nonsense, there has never be a standard, in fact there are even films where different scenes are shot at different speeds. Generally the later the film is shot the higher the speed, with 16 frames being quite good for 1914 and 24 frames for late silents.
     
  8. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2002
    Messages:
    735
    Likes Received:
    1


    Based on what little I know about gate weave, I wouldn't rule it out.
     
  9. ScottR

    ScottR Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2000
    Messages:
    2,650
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's the Digital Noise Reduction artifacting that takes this film's dvd presentations down several notches. Every piece of jewelry disappears from frame to frame in a blurry mess.
     
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,512
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    Alpharetta, GA, USA
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    The proper film speed for a 1923 film would probably be around 20 fps. It varied, too. A film that far into the silent era would not have such a slow fps rate. It's one of those myths that refuses to die.


    The original release had hand-tinted color for that scene. They were just re-creating it digitally... the same was done for the Photoplay version of Phantom of the Opera and the reconstructed Greed. The eventual DVD of The Big Parade will have one shot that WB digitally hand-colored to reflect the original prints.

    Not a silent, but Hell's Angels also features digital colorization to re-create hand-tinting during a sequence.

    It's not the same as stuff like Legend Films DVD's.
     
  11. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Messages:
    7,632
    Likes Received:
    1
    cheers for the review, who's interested in the original release ? Sent me a PM

    Can't wait for this
     
  12. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2003
    Messages:
    6,001
    Likes Received:
    16
    I appreciate the review, but I'll stick with the previous release.
     
  13. george kaplan

    george kaplan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2001
    Messages:
    13,064
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thanks for the info. That's what I needed to know, and it saves me some money.
     
  14. Mark_TS

    Mark_TS Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2000
    Messages:
    1,708
    Likes Received:
    5
    just out of curiosity, what are the VOB file dates for the main feature?

    in case youve never done this-load the disc on your computer, click to open the disc title on the desktop, click open the VIDEO_TS files and the date of transfer/mastering will be there....
    and we will know if this a new transfer or not.(likely done in the past 2-3 months)

    The first issue was Feb 24, 1999-it was also claimed that on the second "SE" that the same transfer was used;

    It would be pretty shoddy of them to be using a 5-6 year old transfer, what with the strides in mastering today...
     
  15. Thomas T

    Thomas T Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    2,683
    Likes Received:
    641
    I was actually looking forward to this until your review mentioned the "organ music" accompanying the silent version. I positively loathe those dreadful organ accompaniments during silent films which makes the laser disc of Wings near unwatchable.

    Pity Paramount couldn't cough up the dough for a full symphonic score, the DeMille film deserves that much at least. On the Garbo silents, Warners did it properly, providing us with either the orginal orchestral score or a spanking new score.
     
  16. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,512
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    Alpharetta, GA, USA
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart

    It's by Gaylord Carter and his scores are excellent. They're not from just some jerk on a Casio.
     
  17. Thomas T

    Thomas T Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    2,683
    Likes Received:
    641
    Gaylord Carter is also responsible for the musical headache accompanying my laser disc of Wings. As a musical instrument, the organ doesn't provide enough color or variety to sustain an entire film. I wouldn't listen to an organ droning in the background even if it was composed by Tchaikovsky! A solo piano, a solo guitar, sure, but a solo organ belongs in a church. As part of a symphonic score, an organ can be effective and powerful as Bernard Herrmann demonstrated so effectively in his score for DePalma's Obsession but if I want to hear a solo organ I'll go to mass this Sunday.
     
  18. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Messages:
    856
    Likes Received:
    61
    Apparently theaters in the 1920s felt they were good enough-- the majority of theaters at the time had theater organs.

    I realize that not everyone likes organ scores, but please note that there is also a MAJOR difference between a "cheese old church organ" and a THEATER ORGAN, which is an entire orchestra built into one console. With the best organs being able to "replicate" every sound in an orchestra, the last thing I believe it lacks is color.

    Gaylord Carter was the last of a great tradition, and because of his legend, I'll never lose respect for the man and his accomplishments, but his best scores were never recorded, unfortunately (and WINGS is not even close to "ok" on his level). His style was that of most repertory organists-- if you were playing a comedy and saw a banana vendor, you'd be obligated to play "Yes, We Have No Bananas." Cheesy and archaic? Yes. Does it work if you know the song? Also yes.

    If you want to hear a fine organ score, listen to Robert Israel's performance for THE GARDEN OF EDEN, which has been put out by Flicker Alley, or the last half of his score for SEVEN CHANCES. Mr. Israel is only one of the greats that practice today, but his method is writing, not improvising, which in my opinion always leads to a better score.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 1998
    Messages:
    28,165
    Likes Received:
    3,870
    Location:
    Michigan
    Real Name:
    Robert
    I guess when it comes to organ music and silent films, it's different strokes for different folks.[​IMG]

    By the way, I have my copy of this dvd on the way which will make my third purchase of this film on dvd. Anyhow, the film is very popular in my family so I'll just give those other two versions away as gifts in the next couple of weeks.





    Crawdaddy
     
  20. Thomas T

    Thomas T Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    2,683
    Likes Received:
    641
    In the far past, I put up with organ scores until two silent film experiences put the final nails in the coffin of the organ for me.

    One was seeing Gance's Napoleon at the Shrine auditorium here in Los Angeles accompanied by Carmine Coppola conducting a full symphony orchestra LIVE. The experience was overwhelming.

    The other was seeing The Wind with Lillian Gish with a stunning Carl Davis score written especially for the film.

    I could never go back to the way it was ... and haven't. I suppose I could pick up Ten Commandments anyway and turn off the sound and go through my CD collection to find an appropriate "score" though. Perhaps something from Miklos Rozsa or Alfred Newman.
     

Share This Page