The Ten Commandments — what sort of colour?

Hmmm, I may have to retract that part of my interview with Katherine Orrison where I said that the DVD version of the silent version of The Ten Commandments (1923) had a “hand-tinted” version of the Exodus sequence but not a Technicolor version.

I have always known, or at least believed, that the VHS version of the film had the two-strip Technicolor version; whereas the DVD version is black-and-white, except for a bonus feature which, according to the menu, shows the Exodus on its own in a “hand-tinted” version — a claim that I initially took at face value.

But last night, I dug out my VHS copy of the film and paused a few shots and took photos of those shots off of my TV screen, to compare with the equivalent screen captures from the DVD. And it seems to me that there is no difference between the VHS’s colour shots and the DVD bonus feature’s colour shots. I suspect the DVD producers goofed when they called this footage “hand-tinted”.

Below are three examples. Click on any image for a larger version.

Example #1:

DVD B&W;
DVD COLOUR
VHS COLOUR

Example #2:

DVD B&W;
DVD COLOUR
VHS COLOUR

Example #3:

DVD B&W;
DVD COLOUR
VHS COLOUR

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About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).


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