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Epic Special Effects

Guest Author - Amber Grey

In 1923, Demille made a silent adaptation of "The Ten Commandments" which like its successor, Demille's silent was epic for its age. It starred legendary actors and actresses of the silent eras as well as boasted special effects techniques that dazzled the film industry.

As if Demille couldn't outperform his first film, he did with his 1956 adaptation. Cecil B. Demille's epic adaptation "The Ten Commandments" (1956) has become one of the staple films in the celebration of Easter. Starring Charlton Heston as Moses, along with a cast that includes Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, and Yul Brynner, "The Ten Commandments" tells the life story of the famous biblical figure Moses.

One of the most iconic scenes in the film as well as in film history is when Moses parts the Red Seas. Keeping in mind that this sequence was made before CGI existed and looks real if not more real than if it was done by a computer.

The grand illusion of the Red Seas parting in the film was created by filming the dumping of 300,000 gallons of water into a tank. Then the film was played in reverse and added to the background of the action in the sequence like a moving matte painting. However, the walls of water that showed the Egyptian soldiers being swallowed by the sea, was created by constantly dumping water into basins. The foaming of the water was manipulated and used sideways in post-production. Like Demille's 1923 silent in which he used jello to part the Red Seas, a gelatin was added to the water in order to give a "sea green" color. The "catch basin" used in the film reportedly still exists on the Paramount lot and is still used for water scenes.

According to Heston, it may have just been God's will speaking through him to part the Red Seas, as he made in this tongue-in-cheek statement, "Whenever people talk about The Ten Commandments, they go on and on about the impressive "special effects." So let me take this opportunity to set the record straight: I performed all my own miracles in that picture, so if you're going to praise someone, it should be me."

When the film was released with a budget of $13 million, it grossed over $65 million domestically. It was also not surprising when the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, all technical awards including "Best Cinematography" and "Best Film Editing." The film won its nomination for "Best Special Effects." Unfortunately, "The Ten Commandments" would be Demille's last film.

Today, beyond breaking box office records, winning an Oscar and other prestigous titles, "The Ten Commandments" (1956) enveloped everything that Demille's work was as a cinematic visionary who will never be forgotten.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Amber Grey. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Amber Grey. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Eliana Isabella Radu for details.

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