The Ten Commandments (1923) Director: Cecil B. DeMille
The Ten Commandments is an impressive epic film for the 1920s, similar in scope to D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance.
The first part of the film (the “prologue”) tells the famous story from the book of Exodus, in which Moses is called to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt and establish the Hebrew law on the ‘ten commandments’ delivered in the desert. The laws are described as the “fundamental law’ by which human organizations must be based. The scenes of the desert outside Egypt were shot near Pismo Beach on the Guadalupe Dunes in southern San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara Counties in California. Some of the huge sphinx-like heads and other sculptures were left out on the dunes, and have been buried over time, but have resurfaced from time to time, particularly in the late 2010s.
Part two jumps to the present-day. Two brothers are taught to fear god by their Orthodox mother, but one goes on to become a corrupt, money-obsessed atheist, while the other becomes a humble carpenter -one goes downhill and winds up dead in a complicated scheme for money, the other teaches of the redemption of Christ.
The idea for the film came from a submission-based program to suggest the next big idea for a film to Cecil B. DeMille. In 1956, DeMille remade the film into the superior re-telling solely of the Exodus story. Several of the scenes in the original feature an early version of technicolor cinematography. DeMille described the film as the first part in a triad of films, followed by King of Kings in 1927 and then The Sign of the Cross in 1932.
The film is an impressive technical achievement -a joy to watch as an artifact from the early days of Hollywood.