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Blu-ray Review: The Ten Commandments: 1923 & 1956 Feature Films DigiBook

March 11, 2020

By John Corrado

Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 Bible epic The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston in one of his most iconic roles as Moses and based on stories from the Old Testament, remains among the most famous Biblical films of all time.

The film is being reissued on Blu-ray this week in a limited edition DigiBook package from Paramount, which features the nearly four hour film spread over two discs along with a variety of bonuses. The set also comes with a third disc that includes DeMille’s earlier black and white silent film version of The Ten Commandments from 1923, which stars Theodore Roberts as Moses.

The 1923 film is divided into two parts, with the first section set in Biblical times and the second offering a parable about two brothers in present day San Francisco. DeMille copied elements of the 1923 film practically shot for shot in his more famous 1956 Technicolor version, which uses its epic running time to focus solely on the story of Moses. The result is a true blockbuster of its time, that is remembered for its excellent costumes, massive cast of extras, still impressive production design, and Oscar-winning special effects.

This includes the iconic and groundbreaking Parting of the Red Sea sequence, a version of which appears in the earlier film as well. The main selling point of this release is obviously the DigiBook packaging itself. Made out of thick cardboard, with plastic trays at the front and back to hold the discs, the package opens up like a book to reveal several pages of production photos and film information in the middle. I’ve always been a fan of this sort of packaging, and while those who already have one or more copies of this film in their collection might not want to double dip, this is an affordable and attractive way to get both films in high definition on Blu-ray.

Bonus features on the three-disc set are identical to what was offered on the previous Blu-ray release, starting with a commentary track by Katherine Orrison, author of the book Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments, spread over the first two discs to accompany the 1956 version. This is followed by vintage newsreel footage from the film’s New York premiere and a selection of theatrical trailers for it on the second disc.

The third disc includes hand-tinted footage of the 1923 version’s Exodus and Parting of the Red Sea sequence and a colourized clip from the film presented in Two-Color Technicolor. This is followed by the feature length documentary The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles, which offers an in-depth look at the production of the 1956 film, as well as photo galleries for both films.

The Ten Commandments: 1923 & 1956 Feature Films DigiBook is a Paramount Home Media release. The 1923 version is 136 minutes and rated G, and the 1956 film is 231 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 10th, 2020

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