With industry analysts predicting a box-office take of over $300 million, The Passion of The Christ is easily the biggest religious blockbuster in decades. But for sheer popularity, staying power and cultural clout, it would be hard to top the biblical epics of the 1950s.
One film towers above them all. According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments—which now releases for the first time as a "special collector's edition" DVD—grossed the equivalent of $790 million in its day, and thus remains one of the five most successful films of all time.
DeMille's film, still the definitive depiction of the Exodus in the popular imagination, and a staple of Easter television broadcasts, is widely mocked these days for its campy performances and its strange, eclectic cast. The unique lineup includes Anne Baxter as the lusty, manipulative Egyptian queen; Vincent Price as a smug Egyptian slavemaster; John Derek (future husband and director of Bo) as a very earnest Joshua; and, of course, Edward G. Robinson as the Hebrew traitor who ultimately convinces his fellow Israelites to worship a golden calf—who can see him, now, without hearing Billy Crystal's impression of him saying, "Where's your Moses now, see?"
But for those who can accept the film's Victorian theatricality, there is much to enjoy here, from the overpolished dialogue, which is full of quotable lines, to the domineering performances of Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as his nemesis, the Pharaoh Rameses. Perhaps most surprising, and affecting, is the genuinely tender, stern, humorous, and conflicted humanity Sir Cedric Hardwicke brings to the role of Seti, the father-figure Pharaoh who knows Moses would be a better king than Rameses, ...