‘The Ten Commandments’ comes to American Region free Blu-ray with a beautifully restored 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Richness of colour is astonishing and a real joy to behold as we take in the reds, blues and gold of Egyptian society. The bulrushes look particularly verdant in the opening sequence – so much so that I had to resist the urge to reach out and touch them. The rosy skin tones of the Technicolor process look superb on the Egyptians and the darker sunburnt skin of the Hebrew slaves is quite impressive.
The amount of detail visible on screen really catches your eye, be it the woven patterns in robes or the golden neck and chest pieces worn by Pharaoh. Film grain is generally fine and unobtrusive, only increasing during the process shots such as when a studio interior and location exterior are matted together. The sharp eye of the High Def transfer singles out the black matte lines for critical attention also on the process shots. This is no fault of the transfer, merely a faithful representation of the source material.
The ‘Disneyesque’ column of fire and Hand of God are also revealed as the cel animation originated elements in a ‘suss job’ by the 1080p image. There’s no dirt, dust or print damage to offend the eye here. The clean up and restoration has been carried out so meticulously.
Contrast is excellent throughout with no wavering and blacks are truly black. This is a fine example of just how good a classic movie shot in Technicolor can look on Blu-ray.
The audio on ‘The Ten Commandments’ comes in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix which makes great use of a wide front soundstage for the directional dialogue as characters traverse from left to right of screen. There’s some great rumble from the subwoofer as the Hebrew slaves push and pull a massive stone into place on Pharaoh’s monument. As the Red Sea Pedestrians pass between the parted waters, the surround sound places us in the midst of the action.
I was surprised that the voice of God was not bigger and more boomy in the mix when Moses is up on Mount Sinai during the Commandment carving sequence, but it’s strangely low level and not very full bodied.
Elmer Bernstein’s score takes pride of place with trumpet fanfares from the main stereo pair while the main theme is warm and enticing.
When you consider that the film was originally only recorded in mono for its 1956 release, then remixed into stereo later for re-releases, it’s amazing how good it sounds in its latest sonic incarnation. It’s obviously nowhere near as good as a recent release, but considering its age it’s quite impressive.
The version submitted for review was the American two disc set. The feature is split over the two discs with an intermission just like it would have been in the Cinema. The audio commentary is therefore also split over the two discs, but the balance of the bonus materials are on disc 2.
Audio Commentary - Katherine Orrison, author of ‘Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’’ supplies a very well informed commentary as she points out who’s who on the set as well as discusses the Special Effects, Ancient Egypt, the way that DeMille worked and anything you ever wanted to know about this movie. She keeps it lively and interesting. It’s like having a tour guide to old Hollywood. Really nice.
Newsreel: ‘The Ten Commandments’ Premiere in New York (HD, 2 mins) - A black-and-white newsreel clip from the days when a Premiere was a special event and movie stars wore tuxedos. The cast and DeMille show up in fine form. Even John Wayne & Tony Curtis were invited. Real stars!
1956 ‘Making of’ trailer (HD, 10 mins) - This is actually more of a promo for the film and is presented by Cecil B DeMille himself. He proudly displays some of the props used in the movie and explains the source of information covering the ‘missing years’ of Moses life. Cinema audiences would have been fed this as a supporting programme item in the run up to the release of the movie. It’s great to see it here.
1966 Trailer (HD, 1 min) - This re-release trailer hails it as the greatest movie ever made and focuses on the spectacle aspects.
1989 Trailer (HD, 2 mins) - Proclaiming the restored 70mm version with a 6 track stereo mix from the 80’s. Obviously none of the trailers look anywhere near as good as the main feature on the Blu-ray.
That all time Oscar winning classic from 1956 ‘The Ten Commandments’ makes its American Region free Blu-ray debut with a meticulously restored 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 1.85:1 ratio. The movie looks the best it ever has with wonderfully rich colours and amazing detail that sadly does highlight the shortcomings of the period ‘matted’ effects shots, yet it is still mightily impressive. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track presents us with crisp directional dialogue, deep rumbles, Elmer Bernstein’s memorable score and the Red Sea all around us in this mix which resists the urge to flood us with effects.
A detail filled but interesting commentary from author Katherine Orrison, a newsreel clip of the Premiere and three trailers make up the useful bonus material.
As for the movie, it’s Charlton Heston and the whole of Hollywood in the tale of Moses as he leads the Hebrew slaves to freedom and the Promised Land with 1950’s Oscar winning Special effects producing the on screen miracles. Every serious movie collector will be proud to own this one.
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