One of the reasons I do love Cecil B. DeMille

Let’s see if I’ve figured out how to capture DVD images yet … aha, it works!

I recently watched the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments again for one of my various writing assignments. This was the first time I had watched the film itself in a while (I had to review the special edition DVD with the commentary track about a year ago, but I can’t remember when I last watched it with the regular audio track), and it was amusing to see this film so soon after getting married — especially scenes like the one where Princess Nefertiri (the very vampy Anne Baxter) holds up a very transparent little slip of a dress and says, “And this … is for my wedding night…” I think I am watching scenes like this a little differently nowadays than when I watched them 20 or even 2 years ago.

I have also been reminded, on a few occasions, of how influential Anne Baxter’s breasts were on my nascent adolescent sexual sensibility. IIRC, Cecil B. DeMille wanted Audrey Hepburn for the role at first but passed her over because she didn’t have the figure he wanted (it’s kind of like how he hired Charlton Heston because his nose resembled that of the nose on Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Moses — DeMille was more interested in statuary than in thespian skill). Well, Baxter’s figure is certainly nice. But there’s also something about the very loose, filmy, translucent cloth DeMille drapes so tightly around her bosom — especially in, say, the scene above, where she plays a board game with Pharaoh Sethi, and then has a highly antagonistic and sexually charged conversation with Rameses — that, um, I remember finding very appealing. And still do, to be quite honest.

And Sir Cedric Hardwicke, who plays Sethi, is an absolute delight in every single scene in which he appears. I still laugh out loud whenever I hear him say to the priest, “You don’t look any leaner!” Or when he does that double take after Baxter says, “And such a beautiful enemy!” His performance is simply wonderful.

I know, I know, these aspects of the film are not as spiritually or historically or politically enlightening as the stuff that I talk about in my articles on these films. But that’s why we have blogs! And I know some people hate this film because it’s camp. But dudes, that’s one of the film’s best features!

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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