Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Writer: Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, and Fredric M. Frank
Cinematographer: Loyal Griggs
by Jon Cvack
I’ve never been in the mood to watch this film; one of the handful remaining on my list of films that I'm embarrassed I've never seen. It often conjured up images of being in Sunday school, forced to watch a clip from the film that was always boring, defeating the purpose of showing a ‘cool’ film instead of relying on the text or teacher. Most times our minds were just too young to understand why certain moments were entertaining to the teachers. I don’t know the specific scene I saw from this, though I’m confident I saw something and it was like watching paint dry.
It’s mind boggling that those who revere epic films Ben-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia rarely mention this in the same breath. The movie had 14,000 extras and in its most Epic moments, DeMille cuts to a wide that contains more depth than you could possibly uncover in its single, long take. One frame in particular contained the slaves moving massive slabs of rock in the foreground, with construction going in the city as far as the eye could see, with even tiny human specks building the pyramids in the deep background. There were dozens of other moments, such as when the Hebrews finally leave and head toward the Red Sea, where DeMille provides take after take of each clan and culture, filled with hundreds of people, all costumed in incredibly detailed and authentic looking wardrobes. The movie is worth seeing for these shots alone.
As the film opens up, and we receive the overture that builds up your excitement, I recalled watching these intros as a kid, hating them for taking up time instead of getting to the story. It was after seeing The Hateful Eight that I understood its use. For a three hour plus film, it allows you to settle down, forcing you to accept that you’re going to be sitting for a long time, but to enjoy the show because it’ll be worth it. I truly can’t believe this movie was made in 1956 - as I kept looking to check if it was actually 1966 - as between the art direction, photography, performances, effects it leaves you speechless. I could not imagine what seeing this movie was like when the next closest thing was the theater, books, or a small black and white television. The idea of a film having that place in culture is simply a beautiful idea. It all made me very sentimental for what movies once were. It’s wild success brought in, adjusted for inflation, $2 billion dollars, with only Gone with the Wind, E.T., Avatar, Titanic, and Star Wars surpassing the number.
Will there be people of the caliber of Marlon Brando, James Stewart, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio even ten years from now? With visual entertainment fractured between television, films, video games, and social media, each possessing their own gigantic stars relative to the medium, I’m not entirely sure; for the same reason that it’s difficult to see another Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones ever coming about, as musical genres have all entered into hyper categorization, where more often than not, I have never even heard of the genre let alone the bad that some of my friends revere. Added is the music fest, where a collection of bands is brought together and it seems difficult to see another Pearl Jam or Tool entering into the picture. I know there will be exceptions to all categories, it just seems that films like this are going to become increasingly rare, especially as films take a back seat in American culture.
BELOW: Movieclips usually has a much better selection than this, but here's the parting of the Red Sea with about a thousand extras
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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