The Ten Commandments (1956) was the last film that Cecil B. DeMille directed. It is the most famous of the “Bible epic” genre, telling the story of Moses (played by Charlton Heston) and the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt under Pharoah.
The film was actually a remake of a 1923 film, The Ten Commandments, also directed by Mr. Demille. Both films feature the heroic style of acting favored in silent films. The 1956 film was notable for its “cast of thousands,” for the location shots (parts of it were filmed in Egypt and the Sinai) and for its use of special effects, particularly the parting of the Red Sea.
The screenplay differs significantly from the account in Exodus, making use of various midrashic sources, the Qur’an, Josephus, and elsewhere. The film continues to be enormously popular, and has been parodied many times.
“…and he looked just like Charlton Heston!” is the punchline of many a joke told by many a rabbi to liven up a sermon. Despite the fact that the screenplay makes Hollywood chopped liver of the story in Exodus, this is another of the films that qualifies as a “must see,” because it is a key part of popular Jewish culture.
Just be sure to actually READ Exodus sometime. Also, take a look at the story of deliverance as told in the traditional Passover Haggadah.
If you were going to make a film about the deliverance from Egypt, would you use the screenplay of this movie, or the screenplay of 1998 animated film The Prince of Egypt, or the story in the Haggadah, or the story as told in the biblical book of Exodus? If you were going to use elements of each, which would you choose, and why?