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The Fifteen Commandments

I am the channel, ABC.

So last night, we sat down to watch one of the campiest, most horrible, poorly written, woodenly acted, wonderfully costumed movie of all times, with a cast of thousands. Yes, we watched The Ten Commandments. My ongoing complaint is that they edit one of my favorite scenes, when Seporah and Nefirtiri meet for the first time. Nefirtiri looks at Seporah and says “You must be Seporah.” Seporah replies, “Nefirtiti, the Queen of Egpyt. Yes, I am Moses’s wife.”

The scene is kick ass for two reasons. One, everyone knows Nefirtiri is in love with Moses, and Seporah gets that great, catty dig in about how she married Moses. The second is that Seporah says “Nefirtiti” and not “Nefirtiri”, and that’s always made me giggle.

Every year ABC tweaks that scene, and I keep saying I’m going to buy the DVD.

I never do.

You will have no other station before me. You will not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of any other TV station that is in the realm of Hollywood above, or that is in Florida below, or that is in the water under the earth; You will not channel surf to them or watch them; for I the channel ABC am a jealous TV channel, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep me tuned in.

For a movie that’s 4 hours and forty-five minutes long on network TV, ABC does a pretty good job with commercials. 90% of the adverts were for the ABC 50 years party dohicky, that promises a bunch of stars (like the cast of Laverne & Shirley) but also a bunch of crappy acting pinheads (most of the famed TGIF crowd, although one in twelve of them were pretty good). I really have no desire to sit through endless Urkel clips, so I suspect I’ll be skipping out on that one.

The timing of the movie has always confused me, though, since instead of padding out the extra fifteen minutes with a long commercial break in the middle, they fill it in with the news. Okay, sure, I can see that since ABC misses the normal 9pm news when they do this one, but really, the commercial breaks are short enough that I have just enough time to dash to the bathroom, let alone enough to make more popcorn and refill the glasses for the drinking game.

You will not take the name of Walt Disney in vain; for ABC will not hold him guiltless who takes Walt’s name in vain.

For a Disney owned station, it never ceases to amuse me that The Ten Commandments was filmed at Universal Studios, Hollywood, and ABC/Disney never had a hand in it until a few years ago, when they bought the rights to show it. Fine, dandy, whoop-d.

Not too long ago, on a trek out West for Laura (yes, Laura Fileswapper, hi, Laura!) and her Boy’s wedding, Ipstenit and I ended up at Universal Studios (where she’d never been), so I decided that it’d be a decent waste of $150 (for parking, feeding, and general merriment). Well, the lot is painfully boring, now that I compare it to Disneyland and the rest (there’s your Disney tie in), and none of the shows I really like are even made by Universal. There are no good rides, the Tram/Tour is nice, but there’s not a whole lot new, and really it’s over priced.

Not that I didn’t enjoy myself (and please, don’t ask about the Mummy, or I will have to hurt you). It was a bit pricy, but I had a coupon and a 15% off for a meal, so really it was $125 and it was an entire five hours of fun. Hey, I even got picked to do funny voices for the SFX show (one of my specialties is voices). Naturally they asked me to do a German accent, which is one of my worst, so I opted for panicky American (it fit the part).

Remember the fifth day, to keep it special for TGIF. Four days will you labor, and watch all our crap; but the fifth day is a special day to ABC; in it we will not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in four days the Walt made Mickey Mouse and Goofy, Minnie, and all that dwells with in them, and rested the fifth day; therefore ABC blessed Friday and hallowed it TGIF, even though it no longer shows quality programming on that day.

But back to the Ten Commandments, the Universal Tram Tour thingy takes you right through where they shot the parting of the Red Sea. It’s about thirty feet long and maybe ten feet wide by four feet high. So how did they film it? Blue screen. The blue screen technique was pretty raw and new in those days, not that we should be shocked. It was new! There’s a moment when Moses is building the city and he’s raising the giant penis- I mean giant obelisk into the sky while Pharaoh and Rameses watch on.

The scene takes place from Moses’ command center and general princely haven, where he stands before a nice, wide open window that overlooks the building. The window is actually a blue screen, and they had to sync up the two bits of filming. Moses and his commanding, and the people and their building. For the most part they do a pretty kick ass job. There is a scene, however, where Heston/Moses commands for the blue flag to be waved, and the fellow waves it in front of the blue screen. At that moment you can totally see how some of the blue of the flag got edited out in the blue-scene cut, making it look ragged and choppy. Oops.

Honor Walt Disney and Michael Eisner, that your days may be long on the channel which ABC has given you.

Isn’t it odd that this movie won an award for special effects? It was cutting edge, and the soapy drama of the actors was considered fantastic.

You will not kill mice.

The whole concept that Nefirtiri is willing to kill, lie, cheat and do a multitude of evils for Moses when he will not back down from his God and do similar for her is painful camp drama. Ipstenit remarked that Heston’s lamentations to save Pharaoh’s son was weak, and if she’d been God, she’d have killed the kid too. While Heston’s vaguely believable as young, stud muffin Moses (arrogant smart, etc), he’s a craptastic fellow when it comes down to older, ‘I have seen God’ Moses.

You will not watch TV shows about adultery.

The ongoing repetition of ‘Moses, Moses.’ always makes me snark back “Marsha, Marsha!”

“Oh, Moses! Moses! You stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!”

Priceless!

You will not steal cable.

When I saw Moses with the tablets that were the ten commandments, I shouted out “You can have these commandments when you pry them out of my cold, dead fingers!”

You will not bear false witness against your neighbor’s public nudity.

The last bit of the movie is when God’s writing the ten commandments with this ‘finger’ (lightning in the movie) for Moses to bring to the people. We sat forward, trying to see if it was actually written in Hebrew, only to determine that it was Phoenician.

You will not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his big screen TV, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

The actual bible story has some pretty huge liberties taken when made into the movie. They edit out a fight scene, they jumble around the whole golden calf saga, and they also make Dathan a rabble rouser more than he was in the bible, and the whole Joshua/Lily love saga is pretty fucked up and wrong.

But I really like watching the movie just as much as I do watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In both cases, the directors tried to make their movies a retelling of their own feelings and thoughts. One was about repressed sexuality, the other about freedom.

Take your pick as to which is which.