classics Why I appreciate DeMille and "The Ten Commandments"

So I love Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses. For me, it is pure cinema. It's got drama, spectacle, and sensationalism. Intellectualism and subtlety? Not so much... DeMille was criticized in his day for being too bombastic and vulgar with his films, but that's what sold them. DeMille knew that audiences love sex (or rather, the suggestion of sex), so he bathed his movies in it. Several times DeMille made movies based off of biblical themes, and he always inserted sex into them--as much as he could get away with.

One of his movies--The Sign of the Cross--was about Christian persecution at the hands of the Romans. Haf of the movie shows the piety of the stoic Christian martyrs. The other half shows the revelry of Rome. The big scene that was promoted was when Claudette Colbert bathed naked in goat milk. DeMille reportedly showed as much of her breasts as he could without showing the nipples. When the Catholic Church reviewed the movie, they called it schizophrenic. But it sold!

Which brings me to his Moses flick that is shown on TV every Easter/Passover. Is it outdated? Kinda. Is it obsessed with its own importance? Yep. Is it overly long? I once printed out the screenplay, and it was thicker than the actual Bible!

But I want to shift gears and talk about how to movie deals with the "history" of Moses. The movie deviates largely from the Bible. DeMille claimed he was following ancient sources. He was really doing what he had to do to make it into a sexy melodrama. DeMille invents a love story between Moses, Pharaoh, and an Egyptian princess named Nephritri who makes no appearance in the Bible. This gives DeMille free reign to put a lovely woman in dipterous gowns and have her spout declarations of love. It's stuff like this that gave DeMille the ability to sell his Bible movies to both sides of the isle. Secular people came to see spectacle. Religious people came to see God. DeMille welcomed them all.

One interesting thing the movie does reference the works of Jospehus--a famous Jewish historian who lived about 60 years after Jesus. Josephus wrote, among other things, a history of the Jewish people for a Roman audience. Josephus presents Moses as a war hero. He makes no mention of Moses' speech impediment, which he has in the Bible. Instead, Josephus writes that when Moses spoke, it was as if God Himself spoke. Jospehus also describes Moses winning a war in Ethiopia and taking an Ethiopian wife. The war is referenced in the movie when the Adult Moses makes his first appearance. He enters the Egyptian throne room and presents Pharoph with the spoils of the Ethiopian conquest. Moses' Ethiopian wife is present in the scene. Josephus and DeMille paint their Moses with similar brushes.

DeMille sets his movie during the reign of Rameses. the Bible laves the pharaoh of the Exodus unnamed. DeMille chose Rameses because of scant archeological Exodus that shows that Israel existed as a nation during his reign. So he was the best possible choice.

Historically, Ramses built elaborate moments and cities with much slave labor. he also had a brother whose name and face have been etched off of every momument and wall. For Egyptian culture, this was worse than a death sentence. Removing a man's name was to remove his place in the Afterlife. Whatever Ramses' brother did to have his name and face removed, it must've been terrible. According to DeMille, Ramses' brother is none other than Moses himself. His crime? Wanting to free the Hebrews. This is clever for another reason: It explains why Moses is never mentioned in any Egyptian record. The Egyptians recorded each of their battles. They praised their own victories and swept their defeats under the rug. They would have never recorded such a catastrophe that the Bible describes. To do so would be to admit the power of the God of Slaves. But for Moses' face and name to be stricken from the records because of this... It makes sense.

DeMille's Moses movie is more than just a biblical melodrama. It is a clever blend of the Bible, Josephus, and Egyptian history. DeMille did not set out to make a clever piece of historical fiction, but in the process of making his sexy melodrama, that is what he made.
 
Last edited:
That reminds me I recently watched the documentary The Lost City of Cecil B. Demille. It's on Amazon Prime. Check it out, if you haven't. You're bound to appreciate it. It's a pretty decent showbiz and filmmaking documentary.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I've always loved that movie. It's overly melodramatic, kind of silly and poorly acted by
some fine actors. It sure does suffer from DeMille's overblown sense of importance.
But I really dig it. Robinson is spectacularly terrible.

Thanks for the history. Interesting stuff.

In '06 it was shown from a new 70mm print at the historic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
First time I'd seen in in a theater. I went four time the week it played.
 
I love the old Bible epics. The Ten Commandments has always been one of my favorites, I appreciate your insight! My wife and I were talking about it the other day, Hollywood doesn't do the epics anymore. Even with all the CGI, they lack the scale. I think the score has a lot to do with it. The score on the 1956 version is just full of scale and majesty.
 
Last edited:
I love the old Bible epics. The Ten Commandments has always been one of my favorites, I appreciate your insight! My wife and I were talking about it the other day, Hollywood doesn't do the epics anymore. Even with all the CGI, they lack the scale. I think the score has a lot to do with it. The score on the 1956 version is just full of scale and majesty.
You're not the director of "Leap," are you, Mr. El Director?
 
That's me lol
Dude, you're an inspiration to me. You made a 5,000 dollar movie, and it was a Christian film. You made your project, and you saw it through to its completion. You've done what 95 percent of aspiring filmmakers only dream of doing. Can you please tell me if you marketed it, and if so, how? Did you ever make your money back?
 
Thanks for the kind words! We actually did it for $2000, here's the BTS documentary if you haven't seen it:

I never did any advertising short of sending a link to the facebook page for the flick. I suck at promotion. Here's some misc charts and graphs showing our lifetime numbers.
Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 08.10.53.png

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 08.13.18.png

Here's the amount of views for the last two days as well as where the views came from
Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 08.11.10.png

And this is my least favorite - Audience Retention. Basically how much of the movie people watch. In my case, only 13% of those that start make it to the end. I think having it for free on YouTube plays a part in that since there's no investment from the viewer and it's easy to click away.
Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 08.11.31.png

Leap 2 accounts for 85% of my income on my channel and has 1.2 million views. It's made just over $4200 since I uploaded it back in 2012 and it didn't start making money until 2014. So YouTube alone has made back twice what I spent, but it took a really long time to get there. We also did a limited run of 200 DVD's back in 2012 that made just about $2000. I recently found a DVD on ebay for $25, more than double what I sold them for. But I bought it anyway since I lost my DVD copies in a house fire in 2015.
 

Attachments

Historically, Ramses built elaborate moments and cities with much slave labor. he also had a brother whose name and face have been etched off of every momument and wall. For Egyptian culture, this was worse than a death sentence. Removing a man's name was to remove his place in the Afterlife. Whatever Ramses' brother did to have his name and face removed, it must've been terrible.
Have you seen any of the stuff on Ron Wyatt? He was an amateur archeologist and there is strong evidence that he found Soddom and Gamoraha, The true path of the Exodus and Red Sea crossing, Noah's ark and other things. Might be something you'd be interested. I can send you links to the videos of the evidence.
 
Have you seen any of the stuff on Ron Wyatt? He was an amateur archeologist and there is strong evidence that he found Soddom and Gamoraha, The true path of the Exodus and Red Sea crossing, Noah's ark and other things. Might be something you'd be interested. I can send you links to the videos of the evidence.
I love Biblical archeology. Thank you for the offer. And my man, thank you, THANK YOU, for showing me these graphs and numbers. I am preparing for making my own feature next year, and I have realized that it requires you to be as much of a craft businessman as well as an artist. Yes, I saw your documentary. That's how I found out about you. You are very generous with your knowledge. You demystify a lot.
 
Top