Monday, April 10, 2006

Why is this film not like other films?

While TBS is showing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy all weekend long, ABC outdoes itself by showing The Ten Commandments three times – 2 parts of the new 2006 version, starring Dougray Scott as the reluctant prophet, followed by Cecil D DeMille’s 1956 version. If you’re reading this, you have already missed part one.

But that’s what I’m here for. We’ll hit the highlights. There is so much story here – nearly 60 pages in my Book – that it really has to get moving, but I think it went by too quickly in this version.

Dougray. Sillier name than Charlton? Only when you know it pronounced DOOG-ray.
Now, if Doogie played Moses… I guess I would not tune in.

What’s the same:
Biblical people still speak with British accents. And Hebrews are cockney.

All women still look alike. And now all the men do too.

New interpretations:
This voiceover narration is obviously added in, as if we are at the museum of Bible-ology. That is just the mark of a bad screenplay. Or bad editing in need of help. Hard to tell.

When the voiceover returns in the 2nd hour, it has the strange Roger Miller quality of a Disney wildlife documentary.

Are we to believe that the child Moses was aware of his heritage? Moses as Anakin. I feel a chariot race coming on. Oh, that’s the other movie. Now that’s what ABC should do – Ten Commandments followed by Ben Hur.

Moses’ crime happens too fast to make any sense, or allow us to care – about him or the murdered man.

Moses got princely hightops.

Whispering I Am. Nice. He really ought to whisper if he is going to sneak up on you like that.

Vague I-Know-God-Eyes are so Max von Sydow. I prefer the kick-ass glare of Charlton “You’ll get this staff when you pry it from my cold dead hands” Heston’s Moses.

Ooo, but this feisty Aaron…he’s interesting

The bones of Joseph. Ok, why not?

SPFX wins and losses
Mummies! – winner, 2006.

Sets – winner, 1956. Why is everything brown? I miss my Technicolor.

Midian oasis – a draw. 2006 is certainly more realistic looking, but 1956 looks more refreshing.

Burning bush – a draw. Nearly shot-for-the-shot the same sequence.

Staff-to-serpent – same

Court of Pharaoh – winner, 1956, for joy and pageantry. 2006 Rameses, as played by James Mitchell, is sort of constipated Best line from 2006, “Despite all appearances, Rameses is a weak man.” Despite?

Brick yards – identical, except for the fabulously fey Vincent Price

Plagues – winner, 1956. The bleeding Nile was suddenly interrupted by a cereal commercial, which undermined the whole sequence. Then the frogs come, not at all scary. You lose, 06.

Angel o’ Death – winner, 1956. The new Angel, played by a smoke machine, moves too fast. Though the actors die with a little more horror, the slow green claw of ’56 has made me hold my breath every time -- for 35 years. When Yul Brynner lays that boy on the stone eagle’s arms, well it just breaks your heart.

Exodus – winner, 1956. The departure from Egypt, as framed by DeMille, is one of the great crane shots since Fleming’s Atlanta train station in Gone with the Wind. 2006 does not come close.

Red Sea – winner, 2006. No surprise that this would be more artful, and I like the idea that the undersea floor is still a hard climb. You need not fear evil in the valley of the shadow of death, but you do still have to walk through it. The atomic cloud cut-in was a little heavy-handed, but perhaps no one noticed.

The Egyptians will not drown until Tuesday night, which gives everyone a second chance to see the big set piece. Give this version a try if you like, but my heart still belongs to Moses…Moses..Moses.

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