The first time I saw “The Ten Commandments” starring Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston was on a Saturday morning at the “Star Court Theatre” (as it was known then) in my hometown, Lismore.
I used to go there every Saturday morning with my friend Mark. When we started going it was just twenty cents entry (yes seriously) for the morning session. Vividly, I remember going to see a bunch of cinematic classics ranging from “Jason and the Argonauts” (OMG, I loved that film) to Disney classics such as “Herbie” and “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes”) (OMG, I loved Kurt Russell). And for twenty cents, you got not just one, but two movies with an intermission.
Anyway, I do remember seeing “The Ten Commandments” in the early 70s, and ever since then I’ve had a fondness for those classic religious epic films. Any religious film, actually, as they almost always have a great narrative and a real sense of drama and occasion. (It must be the Catholic in me!)
You can imagine those involved in making “The Ten Commandments” had a real sense of the history they were making with this 3.5 hour movie which involved a cast of thousands, I assume.
In fact, as I watched it tonight, and in particular the construction of the narrative with those wonderful asides such as the early dance sequence with the daughters of the sheikhs and the comedy stylings at the oasis, I began to wonder if they had used Shakespeare as a model for narrative construction. Obviously without the sophistication of Shakespeare, but in a general sense of how to give people 3.5 hours of entertainment for what is essentially a reasonably straightforward story.
I was watching it tonight with my family, as I’m home for Easter. Not all of us made it to the end, as it’s such an epic production. I swear if it had been released now with Twitter-critics, it wouldn’t have made it past the first hour, as it moves reasonably slowly for most of the early part of the film. Later, however, it picks up a bit of pace, until finally we got to the good bits, such as the burning bush and the parting of the Red Sea.
As a film, it fails to stand up to the test of time and looks quite dated. Still, it’s a great piece of cinema history, and a fun way to spend a Saturday night home with the family.
And watching with an adult eye, I couldn’t help but notice what hunks both Yul Brynner and John Derek (playing Joshua) were. There again, I might have made that same observation all those years ago at The Star Court.