August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

Moses the Lawgiver

S’More Entertainment, 2 discs, 360 min., PG, DVD: $24.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

For those who know their movie Moses from either Cecil B. DeMille’s colorful hokum The Ten Commandments or the Disney animated feature Prince of Egypt, this 1974 TV miniseries co-produced by Lord Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment and Italy’s RAI Television offers a much longer and decidedly less flashy envisioning of the man who headed up the Exodus. Location photography in Israel and Morocco bring a degree of visual authenticity to the proceedings, but it is still rather obvious that this is something of a bargain basement offering when compared to other Biblical epics. Still, even if Moses the Lawgiver lacks spectacle—especially in the parting of the Red Sea sequence—it compensates with a mature understanding of the individuals at the center of the movement of Jewish captives out of Pharaoh’s Egypt (novelist Anthony Burgess co-wrote the screenplay). Burt Lancaster’s Moses is an intelligent albeit somber presence who navigates the impossible relationship between the Egyptian captors and their Jewish captives as well as the complex union between God and His chosen people. Lancaster’s son William plays Moses as a younger man, and the international cast includes Anthony Quayle, Ingrid Thulin, and Irene Papas, while Ennio Morricone’s evocative music score provides the right emotional tone. A worthwhile alternative to the usual sword-and-sandals epics, this is recommended. (P. Hall)