The Importance of Legacy with Cecil B. DeMille, Fraser Heston and ‘The Ten Commandments’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Interviews, Movies by - April 14, 2021
The Importance of Legacy with Cecil B. DeMille, Fraser Heston and ‘The Ten Commandments’

There’s one thing in this business that’s just truly impossible to ignore in this business…and that’s legacy…

Films come and movies go but there are cinematic events that just stay embedded in the pop culture ethos regardless of the passage of time.  Even now 65 years later, The Ten Commandments is just something that is one of a kind.

Throughout film history, Hollywood has made its fair share of sweeping epics and generation defining films, but nothing quite like Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.  From the American Film Institute all the way to the Academy Awards, no other film gets mentioned in the conversation of being one of the best of all time more than this film…none.

Now available on 4K Blu-Ray Combo Pack for the very first time this epic story of Moses has never looked better in all its glory.

Rarely do films these days have the kind of legacy and scope that The Ten Commandments does as filmmakers like Cecil B DeMille were working on a level that we’ll probably never see again.

In advance of the release of this new presentation of this classic film we got the unique pleasure to sit down with Fraser Heston; son of Charlton who has a unique perspective on the legacy of this film in more ways than one.

He’s only on screen credit ever is as ‘The Infant Moses’ and while it’s obviously one that he was never bound to remember it’s also one that was undoubtedly going to shape his life and understanding of the business especially when he started working in Hollywood on his own merit.  When I asked him how the legacy of this film shaped him as someone growing into this business he had this to say…

As you say it is my one time as an actor and if I live long enough I may actually be the last actor to ever work for Cecil B. DeMille which is certainly interesting to say the least but “Ten Commandments” in a way is in my very DNA going all the way back to the first telegram that my mother received when I was born which read “Congratulations, he’s got the part; Love CB” which was obviously from DeMille as both he and my Dad had talked about me having the part and apparently I showed up at just the right time because there I was.   Of course you extrapolate out of that and then there’s this hugely successful movie which is such a key and iconic piece of Hollywood history and while it didn’t exactly mark the beginning of my dad’s career as an actor it certainly marked him for bigger roles after this one like “Ben-Hur” and through the “Planet of the Apes” films.  So in many ways “The Ten Commandments” is almost like the origin story of our family in Hollywood.

As a filmmaker in his own right, Fraser Heston had the unique pleasure of witnessing some of the stages of the restoration of the film which is just as captivating as it was 65 years ago.  I asked Fraser about the importance of restoration on classics like this, not just from the standpoint of his personal legacy but the necessity of maintaining these epics for generations to come and he said the following…

I think it’s terribly important, as it’s really a part of our history not only in Hollywood but in America as well because the art of filmmaking as defined America in so many ways over the last century and a quarter.  As my dad often said, film is truly an American art form and I think it is terrifically important to preserve, restore and periodically re-release these wonderful films that define our history in so many ways.

This new 4K disc is really a reminder of how visionary Cecil B. DeMille truly was as a filmmaker as these movies truly exist as an almost educational reference on how to truly tell a story with grandeur and scale.  I asked Fraser about the legacy of a film like this and how DeMille’s work informs filmmaking styles to this day…

DeMille really is considered the “touchstone” benchmark when it comes to making these kinds of films when you think about it.  If you go back and look at all those films he shot in the mid 1950’s in Technicolor, widescreen with state of the art special effects without the use of a single computer and everything in camera with Matte Photography you can learn so much just by watching them.  Even though the style of his films are very different compared to someone like a William Wyler in “Ben-Hur” who is doing something that is thematically and visually much darker, it’s really two very distinctly different worlds that are being put on screen.  Ultimately I think you have to look at someone like James Cameron who has very obviously learned quite a bit from CB’s films.

If anything, the beautiful thing about this new presentation of The Ten Commandments now on 4K Combo pack is that it serves as a reminder to appreciate the scope of what was…and what we can still make again.

The Ten Commandments is now available on 4K, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital from all major retailers.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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