25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating comparison of silent and Technicolor biblical epics,
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This review is from: The Ten Commandments [DVD]  (DVD)
This is an absolutely absorbing set as it contains both the 1923 silent version and the 1956 epic.
Cecil B de Mille version from 1923 is actually two films in one, the biblical story from the slaying of the Egyptian first born to Moses bringing the tablets containing the Ten Commandments to the Hebrews, then with a quick fade we move into a modern story, reminiscent of a Victorian novel extolling the virtues of obeying the Ten Commandments. The scale of the biblical portion is staggering with sets a hundred foot high, in some respects the film exceeds the scale of the 1956 remake. The film has been restored to pristine condition.
The 1956 version is a three and a half hour long all biblical epic covering Moses entire life. The production values are fabulous, fine acting from a stellar cast, and a cast of thousands. De Mille deliberately recreated the sets from his 1923 silent version, and where the film covers the same ground he repeats the same acting scenarios, except for some personal self indulgence de Mille reverses action left to right.
Therefore the set gives us the luxury of making up our mind which version is best. Surprisingly I prefer the 1923 version; Moses is superbly acted by the sixty two year old Theodore Roberts whose age is perfect for the timeline of the film. Amazingly the parting of the seas is very similar and more effective than in 1956, and the scene on Mount Sinai when Moses received the commandments is immeasurably better. Also the 1956 film is far too long and slow, and although it leaves a lot of striking images in the mind, and has the superb acting of Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston, a great orchestral score by Elmer Bernstein, wonderful photography, it lacks the freshness and vigour of the 1923 version.
However this is a film that divides opinion, as does de Mille, so view this marvellous set and judge for yourself.