Bible movie of the week: Samson and Delilah (1949)

The Bible epic, as a genre, is typically associated with the 1950s, and for good reason. That’s when Hollywood churned out a series of Bible-themed films, such as David and Bathsheba (1951), The Robe (1953) and The Ten Commandments (1956); and both the decade and the genre reached their climax with Ben-Hur (1959), which won a record number of Oscars in addition to becoming one of the biggest box-office hits of all time.

But the decade arguably got its start in the 1940s, when Cecil B. DeMille produced Samson and Delilah (1949), starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. It was the first major Bible movie made by an American studio since the silent era — or since the early sound era, if we count DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross (1932), which takes place after the Book of Acts, as a “Bible movie” — and it was a fairly big hit, thereby paving the way for all the bathrobe epics that followed.

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Review: The Ten Commandments (dir. Bill Boyce & John Stronach, 2007)

Another year, another Moses movie. Cecil B. DeMille made two movies called The Ten Commandments — one in 1923, during the silent era, and the other in 1956, starring Charlton Heston and a whole lot of deliciously campy dialogue — so it only makes sense that others would continue to tell this story, even to the point of recycling the title. In the past few years alone, we have seen a TV mini-series called The Ten Commandments as well as The Ten Commandments: The Musical — a straight-to-DVD adaptation of a stage production starring Val Kilmer, who once provided the voice of Moses for the big-budget cartoon The Prince of Egypt.

Now comes the low-budget cartoon — and this film, too, features at least one actor who has parted the Red Sea before. The computer-animated version of The Ten Commandments, which opens in theatres this week, is the first in a projected 12-part series of epic Bible stories, and the warm, smooth voice that narrates the movie is provided by Ben Kingsley, who once starred in the 1996 mini-series Moses.

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Lights, Camera, Plagues! / Moses in the Movies

Moses is revered by three major world religions as a hero of the faith, a prophet, and a lawgiver. He is also a thriving part of popular culture. When the National Rifle Association recently elected Charlton Heston, who is best known for his portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, as its new president, the NRA’s vice president said that it was “a way of saying, ‘Hey, Moses is on our side.’” And when Jeffrey Katzenberg, cofounder of the DreamWorks studio, wanted to show that his animation team could compete with Disney, he produced The Prince of Egypt, the first major film about Moses in more than 40 years.

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