Film Review: The Ten Commandments

Amidst much ballyhoo and publicity, with a prologue about “tyrants and freedom.” spoken by the famous Cecil B. de Mille. and a small orchestra to get one “in the mood” by playing excerpts from “Kismet” and other “Eastern” music, a film—“The Ten Commandments” is currently showing at the Plaza, W.1.
Like all other things, this film was made chiefly to create a profit and stimulate interest in the Christian religion, and when you ask the prices of admission you’ll realise that Mr. de Mille must be doing very nicely. The writer would like to warn anybody who may want one of the colourful programmes, that if you tender a shilling, expecting sixpence change, you will be requested (quite politely) to give the usherette another two shillings and sixpence! Of course, you could always take along a copy of the Bible.
One doesn’t have to be a Socialist to realise that if people will believe all that this film portrays, they’ll believe anything! But it did leave the writer of these words asking himself a few questions. How often are we, as Socialists, accused of having “our heads in the sky”? How often, when we put forward the Socialist case, do we hear words like “Fantastic!” — “Impossible” — “Nonsense”? The writer wonders how many critics of Socialism will applaud the obvious trickery of the cameras in “The Ten Commandments”? They may believe that wooden staffs can turn into deadly serpents, but the idea of production for use instead of profit—“Oh no, we must have competition! ”
The Israelites crossing the Red Sea (which, I was surprised to see, has a very dry bed!) is more easily believed than the idea of a world without social, colour or religious barriers!
The striking into rock, by fire, of the Ten Holy Commandments is “divine”—“heavenly,” much more to be believed than the object of the S.P.G.B. printed above the Declaration of Principles, which are probably too “down to earth.”
By all means, see this film which is an experience, although a bit of an expensive one! You’ll hear God speaking in a croaky American accent, yet declaring his Ten Commandments in Hebrew. One is left to wonder how those Israelites could have been so fickle in their loves of various Gods, especially after having apparently seen such marvels of miracles.
Of course, everything about Mr. De Mille’s production is a bit of a wonder, but the biggest wonder so far as I was concerned was how on earth people still believe implicitly that all of this was true. Rameses (beautifully acted by Yul Brynner) came pretty close to the most sensible part of the whole film when, during the plague which was supposed to have been sent down by the “merciful Father ” upon His people, he said. “ Bah, this is not the work of any God, this is the natural order of things! ’’
R. J. Otter

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