Tag Archives: The Ten Commandments

Film 101: False endings

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*warning, I’m discussing the endings of multiple films so I suppose I should include a spoiler warning

You’ve seen it before: after a long and arduous battle, the bad guy (or group of bad guys) is defeated/killed and the surviving heroes all breathe a sigh of relief as they prepare to return to their mostly normal lives. But wait…what’s that noise? Oh no one of the bad guys isn’t dead and here he comes again!! That, in a nutshell, is the essence of a false ending in film. For a few minutes it seems like the story is wrapping up but it’s actually the prelude to another fight (or in some cases another full act of the story).

False endings are extremely common in horror films and are usually employed to lure the audience into a false sense of security (believing the danger is passed) before using a final jump scare that often takes the last surviving character. In non-horror examples, false endings are usually employed as an excuse to stretch out the ending of a film, either for dramatic or comedic reasons. There are far too many examples for an exhaustive list, but I will do my best to list some of the most notable examples from film history:

The Ten Commandments (1956): There’s a scene towards the end of the film when Rameses returns after his army is destroyed in the Red Sea. He vowed to kill his wife when he returned but when she points out that he failed to kill Moses, he flings the sword down and slumps onto his throne, his only explanation being “His god…IS God.” The way this scene ends, it could almost be viewed as the end of the film, as Moses and his people have safely crossed the Red Sea and Rameses has been thoroughly chastised for his hubris. But then the scene shifts back to the desert and the final act of the film truly begins.

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Alien (1979): This is probably one of the more famous examples. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has destroyed the Nostromo, escaping with her cat into a small shuttle. The danger seemingly passed, she prepares to put herself back into stasis to await rescue when OMG the Alien’s hand shoots out from a wall revealing it had stowed away on the escape ship. This leads to a final battle where a terrified Ripley must blow the Alien into space.

Aliens (1986): An equally notable example: the colony on LV-426 was blasted into oblivion with only Bishop, Hicks, Newt and Ripley escaping alive. They make it back to the Sulacco and prepare to get medical help for Hicks before setting a course for home when suddenly…Bishop is impaled from behind, revealing the fearsome Alien Queen stowed away and she’s madder than ever!

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): As anyone who has seen this film knows, the end of this film has multiple false endings, with it seemingly taking forever to reach the true ending of Frodo sailing away into the West while Sam returns home to his family.

 

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The Descent (2005): This is possibly one of the cruelest false endings ever made. Sarah barely manages to escape the cave with her life and speeds away in her car. Suddenly she sees Juno, one of her dead companions sitting in the passenger seat which causes Sarah to snap awake and realize…it was all a dream, she’s still in the cave and the monsters are closing in.

John Wick (2014): A notable recent example comes in the first John Wick film. After fulfilling his mission and killing Iosef in revenge for killing his dog, the weary assassin prepares to return home. He’s even given a new car as ‘compensation’ for everything. All seems to be well…until Viggo learns that Marcus could’ve killed Wick several times before this and chose not too. When he informs Wick that he’s going after Marcus, the film shifts back into action and we get almost a full act of action and violence before finally reaching the true ending (Wick saves a dog from being put down and limps for home).

Atomic Blonde (2017): It could be argued that the ending sequence of this movie contains several false endings. For a few minutes it seems like the film is going to end with the revelation that Lorraine was Satchel all the time only to shift into an attempted assassination by her Russian handlers (which she escapes), leading to the shock revelation that Lorraine is actually American CIA (and there’s no way of knowing if that’s the actual truth but it’s where the film ends).

Other films with notable false endings include: Spectre (2015); A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); 47 Meters Down (2017) and Final Destination 2 (2003).

What do you think of these false endings? Are there any examples you can think of that I didn’t list? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film 101

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TCM Summer Under the Stars 2016: Anne Baxter as Nefretiri in The Ten Commandments (1956)

This post is part of the 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Journeys in Classic Film

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Nefretiri when we first meet her

Anne Baxter starred in many films, but the role I will always know her for is her portrayal of Nefretiri in The Ten Commandments (1956). She actually auditioned for the role of Sephora, Moses’ wife, but it was felt she was more suited to the role of the Egyptian throne princess.

Nefretiri and Rameses “You Will be my Wife”

Nefretiri is already head over heels in love with Prince Moses when we first meet her. As Moses is returning in triumph from yet another military victory (this time over the Ethiopians), Nefretiri feels that nothing will stop Seti, the Pharoah, from naming Moses his heir (and thus allowing the two to marry, because Nefretiri can only marry a future Pharaoh). She believes this in spite of the fact that Seti HAS a son, Rameses, and he would definitely prefer to be Pharaoh over Moses. But Nefretiri makes it clear from the start that she loves Moses, and could never love Rameses.

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Nefretiri is so beautiful and so determined to have what she wants, that she doesn’t really know when to let go. In fact, a large part of her role (especially in part 2 of the film) centers around the fact that she cannot let go of her love for Moses, not when he was outed as being a Hebrew and condemned to exile, not even after he returns to Egypt as a prophet for the Hebrew God of Israel. Even the revelation that Moses is married and a father himself doesn’t stop her. Either Moses comes to her whenever she wants, or she will make sure the Hebrews never leave Egypt.

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All those years later, though Moses has changed, Nefretiri has not

Nefretiri’s selfish desires prove to be her undoing, as it is her final plot to harden Rameses’s heart against letting the Hebrews go that leads to the final plague on Egypt: the death of every firstborn. Despite her pleas to Moses to stop it from happening, her son dies in her arms.

I loved watching Nefretiri growing up because of the beautiful gowns she wore. As I got older, and learned how to appreciate performances in film, I grew to love Baxter’s portrayal of Nefretiri even more, because she is something of a tragic figure, in a way. All those years living in the palace, Nefretiri is used to getting whatever she wants, whenever she wants. And if someone says no, all she has to do is smile and use her beauty, and all opposition melts away.

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She can never get over the fact that she had to marry Rameses instead of Moses. She wasn’t content to be Queen of Egypt either. When the opportunity presented itself, she HAD to be Moses’ again, one way or the other, even though this had now become impossible. And because of her narrow minded desire, she lost her son (who she clearly loved), her husband really hates her (he nearly killed her except he had to admit he was unable to kill Moses) and all she has left are bitter memories.

Anne Baxter used all of her skills to bring Nefretiri to life on the silver screen and it is a performance I continue to enjoy to this day. I hope you enjoyed reading about her role in The Ten Commandments. Have a good day!

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A Random Thought on The Ten Commandments (1956)

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Yesterday I got the chance to do something I thought I would never get to do: I got to see the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments on the big screen at my local theater (it’s a program that Turner Classic Movies runs every year where each month select classic films are run in theaters for a very limited time). While this movie was made long before my time, I grew up watching classic cinema, and watching The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur (1959) was an annual tradition at our house.

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How was it? In a word, INCREDIBLE! I’m not sure what excited me more: seeing the film in a theater or hearing Elmer Bernstein’s standout score in surround sound (probably both). This is the film that made Elmer Bernstein (no relation to Leonard by the way) famous, as it was his first major film score.

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My favorite moment (and I knew it would be going in) was the incredible “parting of the Red Sea.” They could completely recreate this scene in CGI and the original would STILL look better, simply because it feels REAL, there’s a reality to the special effects in this film that CGI could never touch. When the moment began and the music swelled, I tell you, I was covered in goosebumps from head to toe.

Watching this classic film in the theater brought it home to me that Hollywood does NOT make movies like this anymore. Think about it, of all the movies coming out since the year 2000, how many can you honestly say you would watch 60 years from now?

This was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait for the chance to see another classic film in the theater!

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