The Ten Commandments (1923)

I know remakes are endemic in cinema, but how many filmmakers are as keen to remake their own work as Cecil B. DeMille, who remade his first feature not once but twice? Plus when he died he was about to remake another of his films, and his last finished film was yet another remake. But this is the original now… how do they compare? With some difficulty; the 1923 film is actually two stories, and the biblical story is only a prologue to a longer morality tale set in the modern day (so you don’t get the spurious “Prince Moses” rubbish the 1956 film gives you). The latter is fun, although I’m sure Nita Naldi’s character would have rather more wrong with her these days than leprosy. I watched the film with Kathleen Orrison’s commentary, which I’d normally never do with a film I was watching for the first time, but with a silent film you can get away with it; I share her enthusiasm for some aspects of the silent version in preference to the 1956 film, particularly the parting of the Red Sea, the manifestation of God and the golden calf orgy. On the whole, though, it’s hard to really make a judgement call between the two films.


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