The Ten Commandments (2020 Digibook Blu-ray Review)

Cecil B. DaMille was a visionary. Without him, we wouldn’t know anything about grand scale filmmaking.  The movies he made were iconic for not just the look, but also the great lengths taken to make the films he made. The Ten Commandments was obviously a film property that DeMille was ever passionate about.  First in 1923, DeMille made an ambitious silent version of The Ten Commandments that now acts like a blueprint for the longer, grander 1956 version.  The material was familiar, but using the newer technology, widescreen lenses and a much larger scale, what became was a religious epic masterpiece still unrivaled 64 years later.


Of course, you wouldn’t give anything less to this film.  The look, the moves, the melodrama! The whole package.  This is the kind of film that people once flocked to theaters to see.  Of course, in 1956 people had more time. There were far less films coming out then.  Productions took longer, and post-production too took time.  There is a splendid rehearsed feel to the film.  The scale at which sets were built is staggering as well.  In 2020, it’s clear that everything is made on a soundstage. For those that saw the film as a new picture, I imagine those audiences were transported to the times of the Old Testament.

The cast is amazing even now – Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and even Vincent Price all turn in stellar performances.  Their acting is of the theatrical variety we don’t see now and would by modern standards be thought of as overacting.  For those willing to put themselves in a 1956 frame of mind, the performances are truly captivating.  Long shots and production design are all as realistic as can be for a studio picture as well.  There is no room for error in any shot.

What’s truly amazing to behold of this film is just how grand it still is so many years later.  The film fills the screen with such warm imagery.  There is a determination in the direction that shines through every frame.  This is the magic of a classic Hollywood direction such as Cecil B. DeMille’s.  The actors were all “ready for their closeups” and delivered for him.  Even for those who haven’t or wouldn’t watch this film, it’s very clear that iconic images from this film aren’t lost to them. The 14,000 Extras, 15,000 Animals… DeMille had a heart-attack making this film! But it’s those scenes – The “Let my People Go!” scene, the still impressive-looking parting of the sea, or the moment when Moses finally receives the commandments are all equal to other iconic film imagery.  Unforgettable stuff.

One would be remiss not to mention though that such a film as The Ten Commandments can be revisited now and appreciated for its achievements in the past, can wear for new viewers.  The film is 3 hours and 40 minutes long.  So long in fact it has an intermission – Even on disc.  This isn’t a fast-paced entertainment.  The purpose of a film like this is to not just entertain, but to educate: to bring life to the bible and to breathe new life into heroic tales of old.  If you’re a fan of the film, you know that already.  If you’re new to the film, with an open mind and attention span, you’re in for a huge treat.  This is a major classic and this new edition of The Ten Commandments is a great way to experience the film.


  • Encoding: MPEG-4/AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Full disclosure – This edition of The Ten Commandments contains the same 3 Blu-rays as previously released in 2011 and again in 2017. The clarity is exceptional.  The film was finished at 6K in 2010, so the transfer is glorious. Grand in the color scheme and in the many gorgeous details that were filmed so long ago.  The look of the film was already grand, but in this format, the look is defined even further and presented with a ton of love.
  • Depth: The look of the film is one that does have pop. The scenery is all distinctive and the work done on set pieces shines through in the depth department.
  • Black Levels: Blacks are quite good here too. The look isn’t as dark as a modern release, but it shouldn’t be expected to either.  There is no crush or any graying element in the transfer.
  • Color Reproduction: Colors are basic here. Primary colors are definitive and clean. The look of the film is grand, and the colors are fantastic overall.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are meant to be tan and the people in the film reflect that style. Nobody isn’t tan or brown or made up to be that way. Not everyone looks natural, but it was 1956, so that shouldn’t be expected.
  • Noise/Artifacts: For a film of this age, the light grain field throughout the picture is welcome and expected.


  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Dolby Digital Stereo, English Dolby Digital Mono, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese\
  • Dynamics: No one should go into a film like The Ten Commandments expecting a modern mix. The film sports a nice lossless 5.1 mix that expands upon the elements of the original Mono track and the original 6-track stereo mix as well.  There are sound moments of clarity and the mix gets the job done.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The low end is not so low. Bass is a little flat as to be expected with a movie of this vintage.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Moments are fashioned for the surround speakers in this presentation. The sounds are usually music or ambient nature sounds.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is placed in the center and is nice and clear.


The thing that separates this edition of The Ten Commandments from the others is the presentation.  The film is housed in an attractive digibook that includes the film and features across 2 discs. A 3rd disc has the 1923 silent version of the film. The silent film fashions itself just as I mentioned above —  A blueprint.  The other features are:

  • Commentary by Katherine Orrison, Author of “Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic The Ten Commandments
  • The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles – (1080p, 63 Min.) – A feature length making-of that is just as arresting as the epic film itself
  • Newsreel: The Ten Commandments Premiere in New York (1080i, 2:24)
  • Trailers (1080p, 12:40) – Trailers from 1956, 1966 and 1989
  • 1923 Film (1080p, 2hr, 16 min.)
  • Two Color Technicolor Segment (1080p, 8:43) – Footage from the silent film in “Two-Color Technicolor Process”
  • Photo Galleries for both versions of The Ten Commandments
  • Collectible Digibook Packaging with booklet


The Ten Commandments is a time-tested epic masterpiece.  This is a go-to film for Easter time and for religious people any time.  The film is filled with amazing performances, grandiose set pieces and exceptional design, once revolutionary special effects and brilliant music too.  This is a no-brainer for fans of classic American cinema and of epic films of any era.

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