No actor has ever represented the drama, power and dignity of ancient times on the big screen like Academy Award-winner Charlton Heston. Now one his two greatest films of Biblical times, Cecil B. De Mille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) has gone through a complete restoration for a Blu-ray set release released today by Paramount Home Entertainment. Also in time for Easter, Warner Bros. is releasing William Wyler’s classic Ben Hur (1959), which won Heston his Academy Award for best actor, in a new special anniversary edition Blu-ray and DVD collection.
Heston’s son, director and writer Fraser Heston, was actively involved in both new Blue-ray presentations. ” These aren’t like those quickly done transfers that are usually kind of harsh and glaring. The Ten Commandments is a complete shot by shot restoration.”
Fraser Heston remembers that his father wisely held that, “Both films had really great stories that are very compelling. Dad used to say that The Ten Commandments was actually a small story against a big background about a man who didn’t think he was worthy. The whole ‘Why me God?’ question.”
Both films were huge box office successes that played for months on end in major cities and were re-released several times to renewed success. In the late 1960s, ABC paid dearly to make The Ten Commandments that network’s Easter Sunday night special that continued playing annually for years.
“There was a very close bond between my father and Mr. De Mille. Dad thought he was not only a great director, but a great man, too. He could be tough, but he was never rude. He went out of his way to nice to the smallest extra or crew member.” Said Fraser fondly.
He should know, even though he was too young to remember, at the tender age of 3 months, Fraser played the Baby Moses, making him the youngest member of The Ten Commandments cast and crew. Following more in De Mille’s footsteps then his actor father, Fraser has gone on to write, direct and produce major feature films including The Mountain Men (1980), Mother Lode (1981), The Proud Men (1987), A Man for All Seasons (1988) and Treasure Island (1990), all as major television movies. In 1997, father and son teamed up to produce the amazingly successful Charlton Heston Presents the Bible series which is soon coming out in new special DVD collection.
Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the 220 minute The Ten Commandments in two different formats; a six-disc Blu-ray/DVD gift set in 1080p high definition, as well as a two-disc set in HD Blu-ray. The gift set comes in incredible packaging with the discs encased in two tablets representing the Ten Commandments and features a number of outstanding extras. Standing out amongst the extras is the 75 minute documentary Making Miracles, developed by Fraser Heston, featuring the behind the scenes story of the classic film. “There is stuff in here about the parting of the Red Sea sequence that I didn’t even know and we used a lot of my mother’s (Lydia Clarke Heston) behind-the-scenes photos, as well.” Says Heston proudly. “The Warner’s Ben Hur making-of documentary makes use of 16mm movie footage mom actually filmed behind the scenes on that film.”
We live in a time when CGI has taken over the kind of large-scale filmmaking that De Mille and Wyler were experts at directing. Anyone interested in a time when thousands of extras were expertly directed and stunning backgrounds were provided for inspiring, human stories realized on film, will want to add these newly restored classics to their collections.