The Ten Commandments – Cecil B. De Mille 1956 (Part 10)

10) There are, in fact about another 200

Thanks for the push, Pusher 7, and Happy Easter.


We fade out from the dysfunctional Egyptian Royal Couple and Uncle Cecil’s narration takes us right over to Sinai.

It also takes us right over half of Exodus, we left the Israelites and Moses having just crossed the Red Sea, at the end of Chapter 14. We got from Moses’ birth to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea from Chapter 1 to 14, and we rejoin the Israelites at the beginning of Chapter 32. So, a whole lot of Exodus doesn’t make it in.

They’re at the base of the mountain, and getting antsy.

Exodus 24:18

I’m not sure why Dathan not only doesn’t have a knife in his back but is still being allowed to hold court. I mean it’s so he can be the voice of the doubting Israelites, but this guy’s been wrong about every damn thing since they left Egypt, and no one is questioning his belief that his judgement is state of the art.

Yes, yes she can. He skips over that part very quick.

Sephora is back, which is mentioned in Exodus 18 , where Moses’ meeting with his father in law is the main event and she and the kids only get mentioned once.

Mered, (The big guy accompanying Moses’ mum) says Moses will return and gets chain whipped by a guy, and no one stops and says “Who the hell are you chain whipper? Who is paying you, and why do you think you can whip that guy?”. Moses’ mother points out there have been a whole lot of miracles that everyone’s seen, so surely God’s just not going to let Moses die on the mountain?

Whereas I, I am just a guy with a vested interest in slavery.

Saying you should go back to Egypt and slave.

Of course they’ll need an Egyptian God to go before them, to stop Pharaoh from killing them. And the guy that said that Dathan should lead them, happens to be holding a golden calf right when Dathan needs it. And you know what? He gets to be high priest.

And transactional politics is born.

In this version there is some kind of strategy. If they’re going back to Egypt (an idea which Dathan has been trying to get traction on since before they left but now incepts on the population with no trouble) they’re going to need some kind of “Sorry our God killed your first born to free us” gesture.

But in Exodus there’s no strategy at all. They’re just afraid because Moses is gone, so they make a new god and say “Well, clearly this is the God that got us out of Egypt”. (Exodus Ch 32) Which is crazy.

Writer’s Retreat

Not least because, according to Exodus they already knew the Ten Commandments and God had already appeared (kinda, in a big fiery could of smoke). In Exodus they had been getting fed with magical manna for three months before they even got there, and when God appeared on Sinai (albeit covered with hot clouds), had Moses go up and down the mountain a lot, and what we know as the Ten Commandments weren’t introduced as ‘here are the main rules’ but just the first things that God said to them direct before they were all “Hurts our ears, God” and he started using Moses as interpreter. (Exodus 19) There were going to be a shitload of other rules, covering most of Exodus 21 to Exodus 32.

In the movie, Moses, presumably concurrent with the Israelites suddenly deciding to start seeing other deities, is wondering, loudly, what he could possibly have left undone that god does not speak to him, when the pillar of fire shows up again with a new speech affect.

The writing effect was done by pre carving the tablets and filling the letters with magnesium which was set off on cue.

And writes the Ten Commandments on the stone himself. Except, according to Exodus, it wasn’t just the Ten Commandments on there, it just calls it ‘Testimony’ and says it covered two sides each slab, and was God’s own work (Exodus 32 15-16). The whole ‘The Ten Commandments were written on them’ is a retcon from Deuteronomy 4:13.

Exodus 21: We’re going to have slavery, we’re going to have rules about it.
also Exodus second half of 21-23 There are an awful lot of rules about livestock and what constitutes ownership/theft of livestock

In Exodus 28, God tells Moses that Aaron and his sons are to be his priests, which doesn’t say a lot for the divine discernment as at his point Aaron is being peer pressured into making a new God.

And the Israelites have put all their Gold into this ‘New God, that’s actually an inanimate object that ain’t done shit for us yet’ investment, the men spend their time molding the gold and the women seem to spend a lot of time on flower/garland examination and approval.

Unless they are treading wine or messing with silk.

Meanwhile up on the holy mountain:

Exodus 25 : I have plans for a Sanctuary and I am going to be, like, the worst Grand Designs client ever born. A ‘No, the overly simplistic tap is defining the space, we need to start again’ kind of asshole. For example
Exodus 26: 1-13: Is devoted entirely to the requirements for the curtains for my tent.
Exodus 27: I’m also into Shittim (acacia) wood and enough gold to please a Russian Oligarch. Furnishings get their own section.

Commandment number 6 gets a different animatic and some awed reaction shots from Moses.

However in Exodus, it gets an awful lot of asterisks. What if you’ve killed someone who was stealing your sheep? What if you’ve killed someone but they’re your slave and they survived two days? What if it’s one of those wars you’ve ordered us to go on like in Exodus 23:23-33 where the Israelites are instructed to kick some ass apparently?

Inanimate God

Meanwhile down at the mountain base.

You know what the new God doesn’t have? Opinions about counter tops. Yay New God.
Really? They don’t appear to be questing for meaning and asking difficult questions about why curtains are so important.

And this is one of the moments where De Mille starts, ahem, adding to the text. Making the God and sacrificing to it was enough for Exodus. De Mille even ups the ante by making it a human sacrifice.

Hello again, Lilia.

She gets dragged over and hoisted up onto the idols’ platform, and fair enough, she can’t exactly fight everyone off, and the pro Moses faction have decided stoic and silent is the way to go.

But seriously, Lilia, that woman in red that keeps at you with the fly swatter? Get up and slap that bitch. You can do that.


Also, I’ve decided Aaron and his sons will be my priests and I have designed the outfits. This will take about 2 chapters, so buckle up. I hope your pattern making skills are fresh. (Exodus 28-30)
Exodus 30:15 God approves a flat tax on temple offerings.
Particularly the copyrighted recipes for Holy oil and Perfume. (Exodus 30:23-38)

Not even his sweet new dye job.

Moses admires the handiwork, and God wraps up saying Moses needs to get down there…

Like, already.

Back down to the Debauchery

This was not Cecil’s greatest biblical debauch. That was the 1933 “Sign of the Cross” which, with blatant nudity, a clearly gay and evil Nero and a lesbian erotic dance got seriously censored once the Hays Code came in, and helped spur the Catholic Legion of Decency into being. Now that was a spicy biblical epic.

This just wasn’t.

The filming of these scenes in The Ten Commandments has gone down into film making legend as the definition of a tough shoot. De Mille was a bully when he didn’t get what he wanted. But what he wanted was a movie suitable for all ages, but he also wanted this bit to be an orgiastic climax of sin. He spent considerable time taking this dichotomy out on the cast and crew.

Nowhere near enough, apparently.

“What’s wrong with you people? I have never been so disappointed with any display of acting on my set as I am today. Why am I wasting film on this?…Moses bringing the tablets down at the end of this orgy is the climax of our picture – and everyone looks like they’re going on a Sunday school social!” was one of his rants.

There’s a legend that Charleton Heston maintained was true, that one of the female extras walked up to an assistant director and asked:

“So, who do I have to fuck to get off this picture?”

De Mille brought in professional exotic dancers but couldn’t really bridge the gap.

What “Erotic, but it can’t be erotic” looks like.

Meanwhile, Moses is coming to save us from this embarrassment, and Joshua has apparently been waiting for him halfway up the mountain.

There were four sets of tablets made, three of fibreglass and one granite master set, which were too heavy to hold.

And about 250 other commandments until the Deuteronomy Retcon. First we have to stop the debauchery and then we have a lot of design notes.

Dathan doubles down, which is unlikely to go well.

Claims that Moses wrote the commandments himself and it’s a stand off for the loyalty of the Israelites.

But one that Moses certainly seems to be winning, most of the people dropping Dathan as quickly as they followed him. Of course, Moses gets to end the argument because he has a tag team partner that’s ineffable and hot on the smiting.

And that’s the end of Dathan. Not quite the end of the movie though, as we get a “40 years later” epilogue, as the Israelites are finally about to cross in into Jordan.

Moses has reached his final form, but apparently disappointed God at some point in the last 40 years, so doesn’t get to go into the new land. Sephorah wants to go with him, but once again, this is a God and Moses only joint. Instead she tells him to look at the people crossing over to Jordan and reflects on all he has done for them.

And I bet there’s specifications on that torch.

He hands the leadership of the people over to Joshua.

And peaces out.

The Ten Commandments Cecil B. De Mille 1956

32,601 words

September 2018 – April 2021.

And once, again, thanks Pusher 7.

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