The Ten Commandments appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this 4K UHD disc. This became an absolutely stellar Dolby Vision presenation.
Sharpness seemed excellent. Some visual effects occasionally affected definition, but those instances weren’t a concern. Instead, the majority of the movie displayed terrific clarity and delineation.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and edge haloes were absent. Print flaws weren’t a factor, as this was a clean presentation, and one that seemed to lack intrusive digital noise reduction, as the movie retained a good feeling of grain.
Colors were a highlight of Commandments. The Technicolor production featured a broad and lively palette, and the disc rendered these hues with fine accuracy and vibrancy.
Reds seemed to be especially brilliant and rich, and I also found greens to come across as strong. When we saw Jethro’s daughters dance for visitors, their outfits showed off the solid nature of the hues. The 4K’s HDR added impact and vivacity to the tones.
Black levels also looked deep and dense, and shadow detail appeared natural. Low-light scenes provided appropriately dark but not excessively thick images. HDR contributed range and impact to whites and contrast. The 4K UHD version of Commandments dazzled.
I also felt the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Ten Commandments satisfied. Most films of the era provided monaural sound, and even when they included multichannel mixes, the results usually seemed to be fairly uncompelling. However, I thought the soundtrack for Commandments was surprisingly rich and involving.
The soundfield didn’t give us a great deal of variety, but it supported the movie to a good degree. Music offered the most involving aspect of the mix.
Elmer Bernstein’s score showed solid stereo separation, and the surrounds bolstered the music well. Effects were a more limited partner in the affair, though they added some depth to the proceedings. For most of the film, those elements seemed to be essentially monaural in nature, but large crowd sequences opened them up well.
Basically, the bigger the scene, the stronger the environment, and the track became quite active during the movie’s showier pieces. The hailstorm plague was engrossing and active, and the romp through the Red Sea also demonstrated fine dimensionality and breadth to the track.
The rears really came to life well during those sorts of sequences, and I even detected decent split-surround usage. For example, on occasion wind whipped from speaker to speaker. All told, the soundfield showed good life and activity, and it made much of the film livelier than I expected.
Audio quality was also surprisingly fine. At times some speech demonstrated modest edginess, but I felt that most of the dialogue sounded quite good, as Commandments offered speech that was generally warmer and more natural than I expect from the era.
Music lacked tremendous range, but I thought the score came across as fairly well-defined and rich. At times the high end sounded a bit tinny and thin, but for a film of this era, the music was quite clear and vibrant.
Effects also showed mainly positive attributes. They sounded clean and accurate throughout the film, and although they betrayed their age at times, I still found them to appear acceptably realistic and bold.
Some distortion occasionally accompanied these elements - such as when the slaves raised the obelisk - but these occurrences happened infrequently. In the end, I was very happy with the soundtrack of The Ten Commandments.
How did this 4K UHD compare with the 2020 Deluxe Blu-ray? Audio remained identical, as both versions offered the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix.
As for the visuals, the Dolby Vision presentation upgraded the Blu-ray across the board. It offered superior definition, with more impressive colors and blacks as well. As good as the BD looked, this 4K easily topped it.
Note that the 2020 Deluxe Edition duplicated the movie discs from the film’s original Blu-ray release. Though the platters come with a 2017 copyright, these still offer the same master from 2011.
As we move to extras, only one component appears on the 4K disc: an audio commentary from Katherine Orrison, the author of Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments.
Orrison gives us a running, screen-specific track. She doesn’t start to talk until a few minutes into the disc, as she only begins after the overture and DeMille’s introduction. However, once she launches into her chat, she rarely pauses.
Orrison offers one of the best commentaries of this sort I’ve ever heard, and she delves into virtually every aspect of the production. I couldn’t hope to address all the topics she mentions, but she tells us about elements such as casting – including actors considered for the parts – as well as DeMille’s style with the actors, their costumes, and other changes like the need for tinted contact lenses.
Orrison chats about props, sets, locations, and the script. She gets into biographical notes for DeMille and other participants, and she lets us know many factors related to the story’s historical aspects.
Lots of fun trivia bits – including goofs and continuity issues – appear as well as anecdotes from the set. Orrison demonstrates a consistently high level of energy, and she shows great enthusiasm for the film, which she clearly reveres. Although I don’t feel the same way about Commandments, that didn’t prevent me from enjoying this terrific commentary.
The remaining extras show up Disc Two of the included Blu-ray copy, where we get a newsreel called “The Ten Commandments Premiere in New York”. This two-minute, 24-second clip works like most of its ilk, as we watch notables arrive at the screening. It proves to be mildly interesting.
Lastly, the trailers area presents three pieces, all from different eras. Most interesting was the original 1956 “Making Of” ad. At 10 minutes, one second, this was probably the longest trailer I ever witnessed, and it was one of the oddest as well.
Much of the clip shows DeMille. First he expands upon the introduction that starts Commandments, and he also talks about the flick as we see shots from it.
The other two trailers are more pedestrian. One comes from a 1966 reissue, and at 55 seconds in length, it offers much less information.
Lastly, we get a trailer from the 1989 reissue. This one-minute, 43-second snippet mainly touts the wonders of big-screen viewings, and it also promotes the then-newly-remastered six-track audio.
Note that the set’s Blu-rays duplicate the same discs from years ago, so we don’t get a new remaster on them. Also note that the 2020 Deluxe Edition includes a third disc with some useful bonus materials but it doesn’t reappear with the 4K. That’s a shame because those provide a lot of value.
After 65 years, The Ten Commandments remains the best-known cinematic representation of the life of Moses, but the film doesn’t held up terribly well. From hammy acting to cheesy sets to silly dialogue, Commandments suffers from the overblown pomposity that commonly affected epics. The 4K UHD boasts excellent visuals, very good audio and a few bonus materials.
While the movie doesn’t work for me, this 4K UHD presents it well. This becomes the definitive version of the movie, though fans may want to hold onto earlier versions that include the extensive supplements absent here.
To rate this film, visit the original review of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS