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(1923), CA - PG. US - NR.
Analysis Date
CAP Final Score
CAP Influence Density
July 26, 2004
65 out of 100

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If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

(2004), Canadian - PG. Ameircan - NR. -- ... not a good babysitter ...

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Famous Players-Lasky Corporation
Distribution (US): Paramount Pictures
Producer(s): Cecil B. DeMille
Written by: Jeanie Macpherson
Cinematography/Camera: Bert Glennon, J. Peverell Marley, Archie Stout, Fred
Westerberg, Ray Rennahan
Film Editing: Anne Bauchens
Art Direction: Paul Iribe
Viewed on Paramount Home Video VHS, donated by TM

This original before "talkies" (1923) version of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments is presented as a story with a prologue. This film does a decent job of condensing the massive story of the Exodus into 48 minutes and in a format compatible with a TV screen using text only to do the "talking." Much of the prologue is in black-n-white but it becomes colorized with two-tone Technicolor. All of the subsequent story is in black-n-white.

The prologue section of the film is of the Exodus of the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and of Moses serving God by leading them out of bondage and is quite something to behold since there was no CGI in 1923. The cast of thousands was -- er -- a cast of thousands ... of humans, not of CGI duplication. It was sort of refreshing to see the disorganization within the huge masses of people, the uncooperative horses and the chariots rolling over each other and tumbling down sand dunes. Each of which were obviously not intended but too expensive to restage. It looked as though some men actually got hurt as a chariot and horse pair tumbled over them and mashed them into the sand.

Most of us know the story of Moses leading the Israelites from bondage and I will not belabor the story with a summary of it here. The rest of the film is, however, a story of application of the Ten Commandments to the lives of several characters of 1923 San Francisco. The film moves from Exodus to 1923 after Moses descended Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments to the Israelites and found them involved in a massive orgy. It is claimed that DeMIlle was "in his element" in portraying orgies. And I could see the truth in that. The orgy he choreographed for this film was indeed clearly a challenge of even man's moral standards of the day in 1923.

Next we see Mrs. Martha McTavish (Edythe Chapman) one stormy night reading from the Bible to her two sons. One son, John (Richard Dix), a carpenter, was a level-headed young man content to hear his mother speak from the Bible. The other son, Dan (Rod La Rocque) was not at all interested in his mother reading from the Bible and let every body know it. John was a believer but Dan was not. I was surprised to see that many of the modern arguments against faith in God were used over 80 years ago.

After a few mouthings of blasphemy, Mrs. McTavish started to kick Dan out of the house but John intervened in one of the rich uses of faith to defuse explosive situations. John reminded his mother that she was holing a Cross in her hand but using it as a whip.

While mother humbled herself, John did not and left with a young woman Dan had met by her stealing his food, who ended up in his house for shelter from the elements because of a WALK IN sign on John's shop door at the back of the house. Together the pair entered into a luxurious lifestyle as the best contractor in the state.

But as time went on and Dan got rich. His greed overcame him and he started to cut corners and use cheaper, sub-standards building materials. His greed led him to bankruptcy. A church he was building with sub-standard concrete fell in on his mother. As reality and accountability settled in Dan's life, he kept seeing signs of the Ten Commandments his mother read to him.

This film carries a Canadian rating sticker of PG. Indeed, it presents programming parents should know about before showing this film to their children. In the orgies at Mount Sinai, men are seen physically lusting after women. [1Pet. 4:3] In one case, a man kisses a woman's foot he drenched in wine. All of the dozens shown are in one way or another participating in sexual lewdness though no nudity is shown. One man places his hand on the left clothed breast of a woman. [Ezek. 16:58] And bear the consequences of their lewdness they did. In one scene after Moses cast the tablet of the Ten Commandments down into the crowd, God sent lighting bolts to many. [Gal. 5:19; 1Ths. 4:3 - 7; 1Cor. 7:2]

There is only one use of the three/four letter word vocabulary as conversational expletive rather than mature reference, but God's name is not once used in vain. But there is portrayal of many deaths and killings, one gunfire murder and massive bondage in slavery. In addition, there are many remarks of denial of God's Word and argumentation against faith in Him just to excuse evil behavior. [Gal. 6:7] This film is not a good babysitter for your kids or to teach God's morality. Remember that teaching a child about immorality by showing it to him/er may teach him/her how to be immoral. [1 Cor.15:33]

While none of the issues of assault on morality and decency were nearly as graphic as in modern films, there were a lot of them in this nearly century old film. Though there are manufactured conditions which attempt to redeem the wrong-doings and the wrong-doers, a noble destination does not excuse an ignoble path.

I may try to conduct analysis of DeMille's 1956 Ten Commandments if for no other reason than to make a comparison between the two films by the same director separated by more than a quarter century. I do know, having seen the 1956 version, it uses more graphic displays than this 1923 version but, if I recall correctly, there are not as many in as short a time (a lower influence density). I may have just talked myself into it.

I do wish to bring up one point about the film in particular. While dying, Mrs. McTavish told Dan: "Whatever you've done is all my fault. I taught you to fear God in stead of to love him." This is a typical misuse of "the fear of God" by writers and filmmakers. Let me explain.

"Fear of God", one of the most misunderstood and misused expressions from the Bible. So many use it against the believers saying God demands that you be afraid of Him when it couldn't be farther from the Truth. Looking at the definition of "fear", where "fear of God" appears in the KJV there are three translations to "fear."

  • yir'ah {yir-aw'}: fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety, revered

  • pachad {pakh'-ad}: terror, dread, dread, object of dread

  • phobos {fob'-os}: reverence as in for one's husband (or wife)

    When "pachad" is used it speaks to that which His enemies should feel such as in 2 Chronicles 20:29 "And the fear [pachad] of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel." But in other cases when "yirah" and "phobos" are used, it speaks to reverence, honor and respect such as in 2 Samuel 23:3 "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear [yirah] of God", in 2 Corinthians 7:1 "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear [phobos] of God" and in Ephesians. 5:21 "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear [phobos] of God."

    So, if one opposes and rejects God one should dread (pachad) fear what He will do (and won't do). If one loves Him one should revere, honor and respect (yirah or phobos) fear Him. "Yirah" or "phobos" fear Him even in the marriage sense as we, the believers, will be collected as His Bride at the Rapture.

    If you want to see the 1923 The Ten Commandments and can find it, please closely inspect the listing in the Findings/Scoring section before you make a determination as to whether this film is suitable for your kids. Now we know that just because a film is very old may not make it suitable for our youth. But for your kids that is between you and Jesus.


    If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed ^ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • 1Pet. 4:3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do -living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
  • Ezek. 16:58 You will bear the consequences of your lewdness [zimmah {zim-maw'} or zammah {zam-maw'}: not chaste, incest, licentiousness, adultery, idolatry, harlotry] and your detestable practices, declares the LORD.
  • Gal. 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those [unforgiven] who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • 1Ths. 4:3 - 7 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his [or her] own body [which includes control of drives, touching, seeking, lusting (even after images), promiscuity, etc.] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men [and women] for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
  • 1Cor. 7:2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.
  • Gal. 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences and present it to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it. I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Rom. 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent, situationally redefine, counterfeit, conditionally apply] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The heart of the CAP Analysis Model)

    The Ten Commandments (1923) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • massive slavery and bondage with brutality (non-graphic)
  • individualized events of brutality, repeated
  • threat with an axe
  • dead child (Pharaoh's son) (non-graphic)
  • threat to kill many
  • drowning deaths of hundreds (somewhat graphic)
  • many deaths (few seen) as a consequence of evil doings
  • theft of food
  • death by crumbling faulty concrete work due to cheating
  • attempted suicide by firearm
  • firearm for offense
  • threat of physical harm to control a woman
  • gunfire murder (non-graphic)
  • dead body (non-graphic)
  • defensive threat to kill
  • aiding and abetting a felon
  • illegal flight to escape lawful capture
  • contemplation of suicide
  • death by storm at sea (non-graphic)

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • disregard for human life
  • teaching son arrogance and brutality and encouraging them (Pharaoh's son), multiple
  • son's arrogance and impudence at mother teaching the Bible, repeatedly
  • lies, various
  • bribing to cheat
  • cheating by using substandard construction material
  • lie to protect adulterous relationship
  • one use of the three/four letter word vocabulary

    Sexual Immorality (S)
  • long sequence of orgy and sexual revelry, no nudity
  • inappropriate touch
  • sexual innuendo

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking, repeatedly, frequent
  • drinking, repeatedly

    Offense to God (O)
  • idolatry, repeatedly
  • worshiping of false gods
  • seeking vengeance
  • denying God's Word to excuse sin, repeatedly
  • mockery of God's Grace and power
  • condemning God's Word
  • adultery
  • coveting others for selfish gain

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • one gunfire murder



    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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