Cecil B. DeMille’s first foray into Biblical spectacle was his 1923 epic “The Ten Commandments,” which features a recreation of ancient Egypt – complete with 20 sphinxes and four massive statues of Ramses – built on the beaches of the town of Guadalupe in California’s Santa Barbara County. When production was completed, DeMille worried that his massive sets would be commandeered by rival filmmakers, so he had them buried in the sands.
Over the years, this silent era version of “The Ten Commandments” was forgotten in favor of DeMille’s widescreen 1956 remake. In 1982, filmmaker Peter Brosnan was tipped off that the 1923 DeMille set was still intact beneath the sands, thus launching a 33-year odyssey with Brosnan battling local government agencies, mercurial Hollywood financiers and a gnawing sense of futility in locating DeMille’s lost cinematic Egypt.
This delightful video diary follows Brosnan and his collaborators as they search for evidence of the silent film set while interviewing local townspeople who worked as extras on the mammoth production. Brosnan was forced to shut down his expedition on three occasions, but was ultimately rewarded when returning the fourth time to uncover impressive artifacts from the elaborate set. This film also contains a generous amount of clips from the 1923 version of The Ten Commandments, and it explains some interesting tricks that DeMille used to make his Exodus seem greater in scope.
A wonderful slice of cinema history and archaeology, this charming nonfiction presentation is ideal for fans of Hollywood lore, silent cinema, archeology and kooky California culture.