Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor star in one of the greatest screen spectacles ever made - the story of the Queen of the Nile and her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The film is distinguished by superb performances from Burton and Harrison (nominated for an Oscar), but at its center is Elizabeth Taylor in one of the most glamorous roles of her career. Astounding in scope and grandeur, the picture won Oscars for cinematography, sets and special effects. It's famous moments include moviedom's most flamboyant entrance - Cleopatra's dazzling arrival in Rome. Bolstered by a talented supporting cast and utterly stunning backdrops, here is a truly epic portrayal of the woman who conquered two of Rome's greatest soldiers, affected the course of history, and became synonymous with beguiling beauty - Cleopatra.
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Cleopatra Blu-ray Review
One of the most spectacular films made back in the day Cleopatra comes to Blu-ray two months shy of its 50th birthday and it exudes nostalgia of yesteryears. This release has a special significance as it's the 4 hours plus version that was shown at the premiere in New York for its debut. Colorful, eventful and historical, the movie features roles that created legends in both acting and directing.
Most everyone who has taken world history in High School knows the story of Egypt and the years of change under rulers that dictated providence for the people. In this story we visit two of the world powers during 48 B.C., Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, one who conquered the known world at that time and the other who convinced him to give her a child that would take his place in the event of his death. This is their story and the aftermath of treachery and madness brought on by a suspicious Roman Senate and confidants of the powerful Queen of the Nile.
It was nice revisiting the movie, especially remastered on Blu-ray in all its glory from the negative of the 4 hour plus version. The film involves you with the aloof of Caesar aptly played by Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor in a commanding role of the sly and domineering Cleopatra and a special romantic champion Mark Antony with the profound Richard Burton in control of the pivotal role that bookends the story that has been passed down through the ages by historians Plutarch, Suetonius and Appian.
The two part film starts with Caesar commanding his army during a civil war that catapults him to power over the Roman Empire. Not satisfied with the win he feels he must travel to Egypt where his adversary and fellow Roman, Pompey, has gone for protection of Pharos Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra. When he gets there he finds that they too have had a brother vs. sister civil war and Cleopatra has been banished in her loss. Arriving under secrecy to Caesar, she strikes up a bargain with him to win back the throne.
In part two following the death of Caesar, Mark Antony travels to Egypt to sooth relationships between the new Roman Ruler and there he comes under Cleopatra's spell. Their connection flourishes and sets up a nervous Roman Leader who challenges Mark Antony's reasons for his decisions in Egypt.
The colorful and expansive vistas in Cleopatra are amazing, especially with the widescreen 2.20:1 aspect ratio that almost fills the screen on my 16x9 HD TV. The conversion from the original negative is almost flawless keeping it as glorious as it was meant to be back in the 1960's. Even the dark shots of the boats arriving in Egypt during a battle are clear and clean. Special multi-camera shoots captures all the action and it's delivered nicely in HD to televisions.
The sound played using the DTS-HD Master Audio does has some fade-out during several scenes and I can only surmise that it happened during the transfer of the older negative to HD. However, not to be disappointed as the whole coming to Rome event that precedes Cleopatra's entrance can be heard with immaculate sound transfer. I enjoyed both the video and sound during this sequence with all the spectacular costumes, sets and special effects.
There are several bonuses and I have listed them here, with some comments about key special features.
"Commentary with Chris Mankewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Broadsky"- This is where you will enjoy how the film came to life and it is very good.
"Cleopatra through the Ages: A Cultural History" Stuart Tyson Smith, Professor and Chair of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara talks about the effects the film has had on our society.
"Cleopatra's Missing Footage"- This is especially good since you can see how film gets stored and how they had to go all over the world to collect more of the print.
"The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence"
"Cleopatra the Film that Changed Hollywood"
"The Fourth Star of Cleopatra"
"Fox Movietone News: Archival footage of the New York Premiere and Archival Footage of the Hollywood Premiere."
FINAL ANALYSIS: A great Blu-ray for its historical and entertainment value. (B)
-- John Delia
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