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The Ten Commandments


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No, no reviews as such yet. But I do notice that a 'special edition' of the 1956 film is due to be released March 9, just in time for Passover I guess. I'm embarrassed to say I bought the earlier DVD not long after getting my player (three years ago and then some), but I have not yet watched more than a scene or two, here and there. I should have waited. (And who is this Katherine Orrison, who is providing the audio commentary? Oh, wait, she's the one who wrote this book.) Now if only they would re-issue the ORIGINAL film ...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
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Shouldn't this be in the DVDs thread?

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christian wrote:

: Shouldn't this be in the DVDs thread?

No, for the reasons I explain here and here. There is no point in diverting film threads to the 'DVD' forum whenever the films in question no longer happen to be in general release.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But you linked to an upcoming DVD release! Is the movie getting a theatrical re-release? If not, it should go in the DVD thread.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Sigh. No, it should not. As it stands right now, the 'DVD' forum is a bad, underdeveloped, and completely arbitrary concept that has received virtually no discussion on this board. It is not like the 'TV' forum, which was created, as I recall, after some discussion and debate. I suspect we are all of more or less one mind on the 'TV' forum, but you cannot say that we have reached any sort of consensus on the 'DVD' forum (if we had, then I daresay many of the threads in this 'Film' forum would not be here, but over there). I would like to discuss films in the 'Film' forum. And when those films are seen on TV or on DVD or on VHS, I would STILL like to discuss them in the 'Film' forum. If they come with VHS or DVD bonus features, or if they are preceded on TV by specials and announcements or whatever, then I would still like to discuss those things in conjunction with the films in the 'Film' forum. Simple as that.

I mean, really, what's so significant about a "re-release"? Should we have a separate forum for films that we have not seen in re-release but merely at repertory theatres? Should my comments on Vertigo, based on my seeing it at a second-run theatre, have been segregated from everyone else's comments, which were based on seeing it on TV or video? Of course not.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks to one of this board's residents, I have scored a review copy of the "special collector's edition" of the 1956 film, and I see that Paramount is treating it pretty much the same way they are treating their two-disc Star Trek movie sets -- six featurettes on various aspects of the film, an audio commentary, a couple of archival things (a newsreel plus three trailers that were available not only on the earlier DVD, but also on the 40th-anniversary VHS set), and not much more. (Some of the titles on the disc are even done in that Star Trek lettering!)

In fact, in some ways the featurettes on this set are even LESS imaginative than the Star Trek sets, because whereas those discs include featurettes on the political, social, environmental and even theological implications of the various films, the extras on THIS disc pretty much never get beyond making-of stuff. Orrison (who spends a LOT of time drawing our attention to the gorgeous sets, props and costumes) does comment briefly on the "civil rights" aspect of the film, noting that Moses' closing line is taken from the Liberty Bell, but what she DOESN'T note is that that line was originally taken from Leviticus, and that whereas the Bible and the Liberty Bell talk of proclaiming liberty throughout all the "land", singular, DeMille's Moses tells the Hebrews to proclaim it throughout all the "lands", plural -- which echoes DeMille's opening remarks that this film is about the "battle" going on in the world "today" between two points of view, one in which men are "the property of the state", and another in which men are "free souls under God". In other words, I think it may be more accurate to read that closing line not so much as one that encourages "civil rights" within America, as one that encourages the spread of American democracy versus Soviet Communism during the Cold War.

Oh, the special features make one other interesting religio-political point, too. Apparently Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser was a big fan of DeMille's 1935 film The Crusades, which treated Saladin not as a villain but as an equal of Richard I -- so Nasser told DeMille he could make do whatever he wanted, while making The Ten Commandments in Egypt. Thus, a lot of those extras playing the Hebrews during the Exodus are actually members of the modern Egyptian army, which had invaded Israel before and would do so again! Bizarre. (And again, another point Orrison could have made but didn't is that Jethro and his family are described in the Bible as Midianites, but DeMille turned them into "bedouin" descendants of Ishmael, so that Moses' marriage to Zephorah is now, essentially, a marriage between an Israeli and an Arab -- a bid for peace, and also a reflection of DeMille's universalism.)

It is also interesting to note that, while DeMille makes a big deal in the film's intro (and in the ten-minute trailer -- yes, the trailer runs for ten whole minutes!) of his use of Josephus and Philo to fill in the missing first 30 years of Moses' life, he does NOT mention that his film was also inspired by modern romances such as Dorothy Clarke Wilson's Prince of Egypt and a couple other titles that are mentioned in the film's opening credits. Compare and contrast this to Mel Gibson's uncredited use of Emmerich and perhaps other sources in his supposedly true-to-the-gospels movie about the arrest and execution of Jesus.

More later. But for now, I have to say I am glad that I FINALLY know who H.B. Warner, the actor who played Christ in DeMille's The King of Kings (1927), plays in this film. I had always known that he played someone named "Amminidab", but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out who this character was supposed to be. Well, thanks to Orrison, now I know -- he's the guy who's so weak (in real life, as in the film) that someone else has to carry him, and he hands a plant to Moses' adoptive mother Bithiah, which she says she will plant in Canaan.

FWIW, I also watched the first half of the 1923 version of this film the night before I watched the 1956 film -- I wanted to watch the entire 1923 film, but the "modern" story is so slow, so dull, and its moral point so obvious, that I ultimately gave up, for now. I was struck, though, by the way it makes the "bad" brother a modern building contractor -- a parallel, perhaps, to the non-stop building projects of Rameses in the prologue?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Orrison (who spends a LOT of time drawing our attention to the gorgeous sets, props and costumes) does comment briefly on the "civil rights" aspect of the film, noting that Moses' closing line is taken from the Liberty Bell, but what she DOESN'T note is that that line was originally taken from Leviticus, and that whereas the Bible and the Liberty Bell talk of proclaiming liberty throughout all the "land", singular, DeMille's Moses tells the Hebrews to proclaim it throughout all the "lands", plural -- which echoes DeMille's opening remarks that this film is about the "battle" going on in the world "today" between two points of view, one in which men are "the property of the state", and another in which men are "free souls under God". In other words, I think it may be more accurate to read that closing line not so much as one that encourages "civil rights" within America, as one that encourages the spread of American democracy versus Soviet Communism during the Cold War.
Does she mention about the Statue of Liberty pose by Moses at the End at all?

Oh, the special features make one other interesting religio-political point, too. Apparently Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser was a big fan of DeMille's 1935 film The Crusades, which treated Saladin not as a villain but as an equal of Richard I -- so Nasser told DeMille he could make do whatever he wanted, while making The Ten Commandments in Egypt. Thus, a lot of those extras playing the Hebrews during the Exodus are actually members of the modern Egyptian army, which had invaded Israel before and would do so again!

Yeah actually DeMille had got all friuendly with the President of Egypt and then Nasser overthrew him so he had to do all his leg work again to get into Nasser's good books. Tho' I thought the army played the Egyptians rather than the Hebrews.

More later. But for now, I have to say I am glad that I FINALLY know who H.B. Warner, the actor who played Christ in DeMille's The King of Kings (1927), plays in this film. I had always known that he played someone named "Amminidab", but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out who this character was supposed to be. Well, thanks to Orrison, now I know -- he's the guy who's so weak (in real life, as in the film) that someone else has to carry him, and he hands a plant to Moses' adoptive mother Bithiah, which she says she will plant in Canaan.
You didn't know, really? I guess I wasn't completely certain, but had worked out that it pretty much had to be that guy (I may have checked that scene and a couple of others to check tho') I always forget tho' that he plays Mr Gower in "Its a Wonderful Life" until after I've watched it.

FWIW, I also watched the first half of the 1923 version of this film the night before I watched the 1956 film -- I wanted to watch the entire 1923 film, but the "modern" story is so slow, so dull, and its moral point so obvious, that I ultimately gave up, for now. I was struck, though, by the way it makes the "bad" brother a modern building contractor -- a parallel, perhaps, to the non-stop building projects of Rameses in the prologue?
D'oh missed that.

Peter, if you're interested I could send you the two (very drafty) draft chapters I've written on these two films for the book that I will probably never complete, and am even less likely to get published. You're quoted in them a bit anyway, and I figure that it would be good if at least someone read them. Let me know

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: Does she mention about the Statue of Liberty pose by Moses at the End at all?

Nope.

: Tho' I thought the army played the Egyptians rather than the Hebrews.

Well, I suspect they would have played ALL the extras, actually. When you have THAT many people involved, it helps if they're all used to taking direction. smile.gif

: : I have to say I am glad that I FINALLY know who H.B. Warner, the

: : actor who played Christ in DeMille's The King of Kings (1927), plays in

: : this film. I had always known that he played someone named

: : "Amminidab", but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out who this

: : character was supposed to be. . . .

:

: You didn't know, really? I guess I wasn't completely certain, but had

: worked out that it pretty much had to be that guy

Yeah, I really didn't know. But then, this is a HUGE film, and I never held this question long enough in my mind, while watching the film, to scan ALL the older men's faces. BTW, I believe Orrison calls him "the first" actor to play Jesus, which of course is not true, even if we are limiting our focus to feature-length life-of-Jesus films -- Robert Henderson-Bland beat him to it!

: I always forget tho' that he plays Mr Gower in "Its a Wonderful Life" until

: after I've watched it.

Haven't seen that film in years -- who's Mr Gower?

: Peter, if you're interested I could send you the two (very drafty) draft

: chapters I've written on these two films for the book that I will probably

: never complete, and am even less likely to get published.

Sure, if you wanna. But just ask Ron how long it takes me to get around to reading or viewing the things that I borrow. smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, my review.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Salon.com on DeMille's cultural legacy, and the legacy of this film.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yer welcome.

In other news, I was thinking of starting a new thread on DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949), but I haven't really got all that much to say about it, and since the film seems in some ways to be a warm-up to the 1956 re-make of The Ten Commandments, I might as well just post my comments in this thread anyway.

Samson and Delilah is the inferior film in many ways, not least of which is the relative lack of passion or commitment on the part of the cast -- they never really sink their teeth into the pomposity of the script the way Heston and Brynner and Baxter do. Probably the best performance by far is that of George Sanders, as the Philistine king who becomes Delilah's lover, but his performance works because he plays his character with a sort of dry snobbery that suggests not only that his character is above all the other characters, but that Sanders himself is above the material that he has been given to perform -- as, indeed, he is.

The thing that jumped out at me was the way the film begins with a zoom into a globe of our planet, as DeMille's narration captures the intriguing humanistic mix of science and religion and politics that was probably very common at that time. I actually had to write it down in full:

Before the dawn of history, ever since the first man discovered his soul, he has struggled against the forces that sought to enslave him. He saw the awful power of nature arrayed against him -- the evil eye of the lightning, terrifying voice of the thunder, shrieking wind-filled darkness -- enslaving his mind with shackles of fear. Fear bred superstition, blinding his reason. He was ridden by a host of devil-gods. Human dignity perished on the altar of idolatry. And tyranny rose, grinding the human spirit beneath the conqueror's heel. But deep in man's heart, still burned the unquenchable will for freedom. When this divine spark flames in the soul of some mortal -- whether priest or soldier, artist or patriot, lover or statesman -- his deeds survive the ages. In the village of Zorah, in the land of Dan, one thousand years before the birth of Christ, lived such a man. In him, the elements had fused greatness and weakness, strength and folly, but with these was a bold dream: liberty for his nation!

Now that's a load of hooey, of course, inasmuch as the Samson of DeMille's film -- and of the Bible, for that matter -- does not seem all that interested in the fate of his nation, let alone such lofty Enlightenment ideals as liberty and reason and so on. As a prof of mine once put it, the biblical Samson almost seems like a PARODY of the other judges; again and again, in the Book of Judges, one gets the impression that if Samson did anything to save his people, he did so almost by accident -- the fact that he killed lots and lots of Philistines out of some personal vendetta just happened to benefit the people of Dan, but it's not like he was killing them consciously out of some religio-political vocation. And the first time we actually see Samson in the film, his mother is chiding him for hanging out with Philistine women and thinking of his stomach; within the film, even DeMille does not particularly bother to convince us that Samson was the idealistic hero that the prologue makes him out to be.

The dialogue is frequently marred by DeMille's apparent idea that people in Bible times kept comparing each other to animals ("You're a bold little monkey," etc.; the dumbest line is probably the one that Samson speaks when Delilah sees him kill the lion and rushes to embrace him: "Hey! One cat at a time!"). But I did like the way Samson links himself to the lion (and other animals) when he reveals that the "mark of his power" is in his hair, just as it is in the lion's mane, etc. -- that is a connection that I don't think had ever occurred to me before.

Alas, Samson himself is played by Victor Mature, a not very interesting actor with a limited range who for some reason always reminds me Sylvester Stallone. And his chief rival for Angela Lansbury's affections is played by Henry Wilcoxon, a friend of DeMille's who appeared in many of his films but whose acting skills are strictly of the bland high-school-play variety. (How old was Lansbury then? The oldest movie of hers I know, apart from this, is The Court Jester, a 1956 flick that ranks among my top ten of all time, in which she plays the princess smitten by romantic notions of running off with some lover or other.) Hedy Lamarr isn't bad as Delilah (here made out to be Lansbury's sister), though she isn't called to do much except look sexy and vamp it up while plotting her revenge against Samson for spurning her.

Also interesting to see how the film begins with an old man telling stories about Moses to a young boy with a slingshot named ... Saul! At the end of the movie, Samson tells Saul, "Maybe one day you will unite our people and become their first king." Boy, didn't THAT come from out of the blue -- and hey, wasn't Saul from the tribe of Benjamin, not Dan? Ah well. I was also a bit surprised to see that the film does not show Samson killing the thirty men whose tunics he gave to his wedding guests -- instead, he just ambushes them and steals their clothes.

One last bit of historical-speculation trivia: Quite a few scholars believe that the Philistines were basically an offshoot of ancient Greek civilization, and this is reflected to some degree in the kinds of stories that have been handed down about them; Goliath's call for a champion to face him in battle on behalf of the entire army is reminiscent of similar challenges in the Iliad, and his armour has one or two features that seem specific to the ancient Greeks, and it must be said that Samson seems to have more in common with legendary Greek figures like Hercules than with any of the other ancient Hebrews. Also intriguing is that Samson comes from the tribe of Dan, and that some scholars have proposed that the tribe of Dan may be historically descended not from a son of Jacob by that name, but from a race known as the "Denyen", listed with the Philistines among the "Sea Peoples" who fought the Egyptians in 1179 BC; in Judges 5:17, Deborah and Barak even ask "Dan, why did he tarry by the ships?" which is interesting since none of the other tribes were known for seamanship. So the fact that the most Hellenistic of Hebrew judges happens to come from this tribe -- a tribe that may have had a connection to the Philistines unique among the Israelites -- is interesting.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
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: Samson himself is played by Victor Mature, a not very interesting actor

: with a limited range who for some reason always reminds me Sylvester Stallone.

Yup That always occurs to me. I'm sure Stallone owes his career to it (lets face it he doesn't owe it to his acting coach!)

I can't believe you haven't mentionnned how awful the lion fight actually is. I suppose its made worse when you read beforehand that its composed of scenes of a stuntman fighting a real lion, and Mature rolling around on the floor with a Lion skin, but it really is painfully obvious, both that its not Mature in places and that its not a lion in others.

It seems funny seeing Lansbury as an object of desire, she seems to have been playing a bossy middle aged woman for her whole career, but she looks quite attractive in this (except for the throbbing sensation in one's head of JESSICA FLETCHER, JESSICA FLETCHER, JESSICA FLETCHER)

I'm surprised you hadn't noticed the Saul line as it was one of the things that struck me. As for the origins of the tribes of Israel I'm all a bit sceptical about them so I wouldn't be surprised. It seems to me that there are 4 transition points across the Old testament where you could draw a line and say history kicks in here. The first is the Gen 1, then there's Gen 12, then there's Exodus 1, and then there's then end of Judges / start of Samuel. I'm fairly convinced its not the firt, but as for the other's I remain open to the possibilities.

Back to the film...I can't remember who said it but they aid wordds to the effect of "George Sanders wears armour like a tweed suit" haven't quite worked out whether it was a copliment or not... Also Wilcoxon was a big friend of DemIlle and deMille certainly talks with a lot of affection about him in his autobiography. In another biography of DeMille's Wilcoxon donates a chapter. There seemed to bve a father / son relationship, or a mentiorring relationship, but as far as I'm aware Wilcoxon did little directing / producing after Demille's death, and his most famous post-DeMille film seems to be Caddyshack.

I actually found Lamarr pretty annoying, but thought Victor pulled off the end scenes quite well (and was in danger of rescuing the film)

anyway...

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: I can't believe you haven't mentionnned how awful the lion fight actually

: is. I suppose its made worse when you read beforehand that its

: composed of scenes of a stuntman fighting a real lion, and Mature rolling

: around on the floor with a Lion skin, but it really is painfully obvious, both

: that its not Mature in places and that its not a lion in others.

Oh, I could have guessed that even if I hadn't read about it -- as you say, it's painfully obvious. But I think it's only painfully obvious in a way that a lot of effects were painfully obvious back then -- I think I can excuse this as part of the conventions of its times; however, bad writing and bad acting are always bad writing and bad acting. I mean, people accuse the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments of bad writing and bad acting, but I disagree -- I think THAT film is brilliantly written and acted WITHIN the conventions of a certain kind of drama that now seems dated to us, and I am more than willing to accept the film on those terms. Samson and Delilah, on the other hand, really DOES have bad writing and bad acting.

: It seems funny seeing Lansbury as an object of desire, she seems to

: have been playing a bossy middle aged woman for her whole career, but

: she looks quite attractive in this (except for the throbbing sensation in

: one's head of JESSICA FLETCHER, JESSICA FLETCHER, JESSICA

: FLETCHER)

Oh, get thee to a video store and rent The Court Jester (1956)! I grew up on that film, and it remains one of my all-time faves, so when I see Samson and Delilah, I do not see Jessica Fletcher (i.e. older, bossier Lansbury) but Princess Gwendolyn (i.e. younger, sexier Lansbury)! (Oh, do I remember the shock when I realized they were the same person!)

: I'm surprised you hadn't noticed the Saul line as it was one of the things

: that struck me.

I remember noticing it the last time I saw the film; what I had forgotten was how totally out-of-the-blue it is. Like, why would any random man tell any random boy, and in a situation like THAT, "Oh yeah, maybe you'll grow up to unite our people some day and become our first king"?

: It seems to me that there are 4 transition points across the Old

: testament where you could draw a line and say history kicks in here.

Hmmm, I don't think history "kicks in" at any particular point -- I think it works its way in gradually.

: Back to the film...I can't remember who said it but they aid wordds to the

: effect of "George Sanders wears armour like a tweed suit" haven't quite

: worked out whether it was a copliment or not...

smile.gif

: Also Wilcoxon was a big friend of DemIlle and deMille certainly talks with

: a lot of affection about him in his autobiography.

Yeah, I just don't think artistic or casting decisions should be based exclusively on friendship.

: I actually found Lamarr pretty annoying, but thought Victor pulled off the

: end scenes quite well (and was in danger of rescuing the film)

smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh, I could have guessed that even if I hadn't read about it -- as you say, it's painfully obvious. But I think it's only painfully obvious in a way that a lot of effects were painfully obvious back then -- I think I can excuse this as part of the conventions of its times;

Seriously? I think its particularly bad even for that era. I mean I can take a bit of blue screening, but this compares poor;y compared to say the amphitheatre scene in Quo Vadis just two years later.

: Oh, get thee to a video store and rent The Court Jester (1956)!

I'm just not sure it would work. Its like fancying your Gran or something if you've got used to "Jessica" first. Eugh, Eugh, eugh.

Besides I'd be surprised if it was in more than 10 video stores nationwide.

:: It seems to me that there are 4 transition points across the Old

:: testament where you could draw a line and say history kicks in here.

: Hmmm, I don't think history "kicks in" at any particular point -- I think it

: works its way in gradually.

Yeah I know you're in favour of that CS Lewis approach. Personally tho' whilst I wouldn't say its absolutely black and white, I think that at these four points some form of ambiguity is resolved with a clear new narrative which seems to start off on a fresh foot with some new purpose.

(I guess I'm slightly suspicious as to whether the people David rules really are nearly all the genetic descendants of Abraham. )

Judges is perhaps the most described period of ambiguity, but its there at the other points too.

I'm also not saying that Samuel & Kings describe pure history either, but that somehow its more historically credible than that that goes before it.

But I really dunno. I'm still open to all the Israelites being abraham's literal descendants as well

Matt

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Oh, get thee to a video store and rent The Court Jester (1956)!

Peter, I never thanked you properly for this recommendation. I rented, and shortly afterwards bought, The Court Jester based on your recommendation, and have watched it twice with my kids. We love it! I can't think of another film that's as successful at what it does -- it really is the satirical counterpart to The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Those who try to tangle with my derring-do

Wind up at the angle that herring do!

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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MattPage wrote:

: But I really dunno. I'm still open to all the Israelites being abraham's

: literal descendants as well

Sure, I mean, it's interesting how DNA analysis indicates that Jews and Arabs come from a common gene pool going back about 4,000 years. But I also think there is some merit to the idea that the Israelites absorbed other nations into their national myth, as it were, and I think that does allow room for theories like the one re: how the Denyen = Dan.

SDG wrote:

: Peter, I never thanked you properly for this recommendation. I rented,

: and shortly afterwards bought, The Court Jester based on your

: recommendation, and have watched it twice with my kids. We love it!

Great! Excellent! The film is winning over a new generation! smile.gif

: I can't think of another film that's as successful at what it does -- it really

: is the satirical counterpart to The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Yes -- and I especially love the casting of Basil Rathbone. He's a lot more sinister here than he is in the original Robin Hood, don't you think? But that just makes Danny Kaye's panicking around him even FUNNIER. I saw Home on the Range yesterday (I'll post my comments on that one eventually), and I was dismayed to see, once again, a comedy in which the villains are just stupid idiots. I much prefer the way Rathbone plots and schemes and seems to RELISH what he thinks is a matching of wits.

: Those who try to tangle with my derring-do

: Wind up at the angle that herring do!

Would you believe the version of the film which my father taped off TV in the late '70s, and which was the only version of the film that I knew for years, had deleted this entire musical number?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Getting back to DeMille ... apparently there was a documentary on him on Turner Movie Classics a couple nights ago, and nobody mentioned it (not that we could have seen it in Canada even if we HAD known about it, but I might have asked someone to tape it for me).

- - -

DeMille's Commandment: Honor Thy Dancing Girls

Those who want to revisit it will nevertheless have ample opportunity this week, when Turner Classic Movies shows a new two-part documentary titled "Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic" (tomorrow and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Eastern) and eight of his films. "The King of Kings" (1927), with its zebra-driving Magdalene, is on the schedule. So are two more of DeMille's achievements in boffo box-office reverence: "The Sign of the Cross" (1932) and "The Crusades" (1935). Not glutted yet? You may catch DeMille's "Ten Commandments" (1956) tonight on ABC (evidently broadcast in response to the success of "The Passion") or visit the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens for a big-screen series of DeMille's movies (beginning on Saturday), succinctly titled "Sin and Salvation."

Stuart Klawans, New York Times, April 4

New Testament to Genius: Turner's 'Cecil B. DeMille'

A film that includes dramatizations of the trial and crucifixion of Christ draws criticism because it has anti-Semitic overtones. "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004? Yes, but also, much earlier, Cecil B. DeMille's "The King of Kings" in 1927, proving again that what goes around comes around, especially if it's bad.

Tom Shales, Washington Post, April 5

- - -

The NYT piece even quotes Angela Lansbury to the effect that she and Victor Mature were always "laughing up our sleeves" on the set of Samson and Delilah.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 10 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 years later...
Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted the review he wrote for the Chicago Reader when the 1956 film was re-issued in 1990. Very interesting stuff. (I would quibble with a few of his statements of fact and at least one of his more minor interpretations -- I do think, in fact, that the film inclines us to believe that Joshua and Lilia get together in the end -- but the broader contours of his argument seem sound to me. I especially like his argument that the film is, in some ways, ANTI-spectacle.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...
Paul Flesher talks about how this film's depiction of the plague of the firstborn was influenced by the early Christian writer Melito of Sardis.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Los Angeles Times:

There will be a lot of history on display Monday night when the American Cinematheque presents Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments" starring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as the power-mad pharaoh, Rameses — and not just of the biblical kind.

"Ten Commandments" has a special place in Hollywood lore: It was DeMille's last film and made Heston a superstar. The blockbuster is being shown at the Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, which is celebrating its 88th birthday that night.

The screening also marks the premiere of the new digital restoration of the road show version of the film (road show versions were generally longer than versions at local theaters and were screened in movie palaces with reserved seating and bookings running for as long as nine months). . . .

Some bloggers have wondered what extra footage this "restored" version of the movie might have, but it doesn't sound to me like there IS any new footage here; instead, the article simply says that "road show" versions of films like this were "GENERALLY longer" than the versions that played in local theatres. It is possible that this PARTICULAR movie was never released in a shorter version, or that the longest version was the basis for the various VHS and DVD editions that are already out there.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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91-84GDVYJL._AA1500_.jpg

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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