Watching the epic movie The Ten Commandments is one of my favorite parts of celebrating Easter. And though I have it on DVD, I have to suffer along with the Hebrew slaves by sitting through all 284 minutes of the ABC telecast each year. It’s tradition.
Yes, I know the movie is actually about Passover, but I associate it with Easter. ABC started airing it every year on Easter the year I was born. So I literally grew up with it as an Easter tradition.
Cecil B. DeMille knew how to make a biblical movie entertaining. Well, at least the first part. Before everyone finds out Moses is a Hebrew, it is like a rollicking family sitcom. Let’s play Hounds and Jackals and tease Rameses about who is going to be the next Pharaoh!
And the actors aren’t kidding around either–they are acting. Even the stoicism is over the top. And I love how campy Anne Baxter as Nefretiri is (“oh, Moses, Moses, Moses!”).
This is not a bad representation of how I think of this movie:
The movie’s many great lines became part of my family’s lexicon. When you exasperated someone in my family, they were likely to respond with a tired “Moses, Moses…” a la Yul Brynner’s Rameses at the 25 second mark.
Then there’s the excessive use of the word bondage. One year I counted, and surprisingly only got a total of 18. If you want to get really good and blitzed, you’ll need another drinking game, because bondage isn’t going to get it done alone. May I suggest drinking whenever someone says “Moses?”
As I got older, I started to get more frustrated with the inefficiency of the Moses plan for freeing the Hebrew slaves. Dude, Sethi’s about to name you as his successor and your hot girlfriend killed the only other person who would dare tell that you are a Hebrew. You got this!
Moses gotta do it the hard way…after what might be film’s most ill-conceived revelation scene. What a waste of a perfectly good cover-up murder. I’m really supposed to believe that Nefretiri would crumble so easily?
Moses says, “Gee, I wonder what happened to old Memnet.”
And Nefretiri is all, “OK, I give up, I killed her!”…“Oh yeah, and you’re a Hebrew.”
My alternative plan? Moses keeps his mouth shut, succeeds Sethi as Pharaoh, gets it on with the throne princess, and frees his people. Or maybe institutes a system of paid employment, because someone needs to build cities in Pharaoh’s honor. The best part of my plan is it would yield a movie whose length won’t make your ass fall asleep.
I also need to make a confession. Each year, I root for Rameses more and more. Look, I get it. Rameses-bad, Moses & I Am That I Am-good.
But Yul Brynner kicks ass! He keeps the movie entertaining after Moses finds God and, let’s face it, becomes a humorless, sanctimonious ass. Even his wife can’t stand him anymore. When Nefretiri comes to save Moses’ first born, she meets his wife Sephora, and is clearly jealous of her. And Sephora basically says, “bitch please, you ain’t missing anything.”
Rameses says cool stuff like “so let it be written, so let it be done.” He has rational explanations for the plagues (at least until the last one anyway). And he amuses me when he finally gives in and frees the Hebrew slaves. He just wants Moses out of his face. And by this point who wouldn’t? Moses never shuts up. So Rameses says, “You’re free, go away.” But Moses proceeds to make the s-l-o-w-e-s-t exit ever, with more of his infernal talking. And Rameses’ look is saying, “Oh My God(s), did I not just tell you to leave?”
It’s also tradition to talk to the TV when the freed slaves throw a kegger for the golden calf. I always warn them–just wait until Moses comes back with God’s law and sees what you’re doing. He’s going to be so pissed! But they never listen.
Oh well, they always reach the promised land in the end. (Spoiler!)
Will you watch The Ten Commandments this year? Do you have a favorite movie that you watch over and over again?