Friday, June 7 2013, 06:40 PM MDT
Blu-ray Review: Cleopatra - 50th Anniversary Edition
Genre: Drama, History
Street Date: May 28, 2013
Available On: Blu-ray
Synopsis: Joseph L. Makiewicz’s epic tale of Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) and her seduction of Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison), Mark Antony (Richard Burton) and the Roman Empire.
Extras: “Cleopatra Through the Ages: A Cultural History,” “Cleopatra’s Missing Footage,” “The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence,” “Cleopatra: The Film that Changed Hollywood,” “The Fourth Star of Cleopatra” Featurettes, Audio Commentary and Archival Footage of the New York and Hollywood Premiers, Theatrical Trailers
Recommendation: Fox’s 50th Anniversary Edition of Cleopatra features the four-hour cut of the film (rather than the three-hour version that was originally showed in theaters or the six-hour version that director Joseph L. Makiewicz originally brought to the studio). It is essentially two two-hour films separated by an intermission. The first half focuses on Cleopatra’s relationship with Julius Caesar. The second covers Cleopatra’s romance with Mark Anthony.
For decades Cleopatra was considered the most expensive film ever made and it shows here with the film’s massive sets, huge crowd sequences and elaborate backdrops. Of course, it didn’t help that they had to essentially shoot half of the film twice when production was moved from London to Rome to accommodate, among other things, Taylor’s recovery from a tracheotomy that saved her life midway through filming.
The film itself isn’t nearly as impressive as its set pieces, but it is still a highly enjoyable experience. I’d recommend breaking the film up into two sittings, rather than trying to consume it entirely in one. I’d be interested in seeing the six-hour version of the film. Not because I think it would make the film stronger, it already feels a bit bloated, but just to see Makiewicz’s film as he intended it to be.
Thankfully Fox was wise enough to spread this Blu-ray release over two discs and while I clearly never saw the film during its first theatrical run the image quality, both in color and detail, looks spectacular. It’s fairly remarkable how well the movie trickery holds up after all these years. I often found myself trying to establish exactly where the real sets gave way to the giant painted backgrounds.
The bonus features are quite extensive and offer a wonderful view into the making of the film as well as the cultural impact that the film had on Hollywood. Even if you dislike the film the stories that surround it are deeply fascinating.
-Ryan Michael Painter