67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Like other reviewers here, I've purchased the Blu-ray which has been widely-available in the United Kingdom and Australia for many, many months. I've no idea why it's taken so long to be released in the States, but for those who've been reluctant to import, it will be well worth the wait.
Quite simply this is the best CLEOPATRA has ever looked on home video - and that is no small feat considering that the title also received raves 10 years ago when it debuted on standard-definition DVD. Restored from original 70mm Todd-AO elements, the High Definition picture brings out all the hidden detailing in sets and costumes, and Alex North's haunting score glistens in full DTS Master audio.
The one thing I criticise is the placement of the film's Entr'acte. Just like the earlier DVD presentation, it has been placed at the end of Disc 1, when it should ideally be on the second disc before launching into the final portion of the film. Whether or not this will be corrected on the American Blu-ray release I've yet to discover* - hopefully it has, but it's a very minor quibble on what is an otherwise comprehensive package.
The fascinating feature-length documentary "Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood", the vintage featurette "The Fourth Star of Cleopatra", and audio commentary with the brothers Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky are all ported over from the original DVD release.
New extras commissioned for this Blu-ray release include "Cleopatra's Missing Footage" (a brief look at the search, which continues to this day, for the elusive material culled from the shoot); "Cleopatra Through the Ages: A Cultural History" (just as the title implies), and "The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence" (an interactive gallery of letters and internal documents which chart the making of the movie). "Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman" is a 30-minute look at the film's stormy production but simply re-covers what was told in greater depth in the "Film That Changed Hollywood" documentary.
Run - don't walk - to grab your copy of this Hollywood classic. It's like discovering CLEOPATRA for the very first time, all over again.
*Update - I've since read that the Entr'acte has been re-positioned in its correct place at the start of Disc 2.
93 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2013
It is likely that the US edition of CLEOPATRA on Blu Ray will be identical in most respects to the "All Region" edition released in the UK last year. (I'm guessing that this will apply to the bonus features as well.)
Assuming that the US edition mirrors what's available in the UK, viewers are in for a terrific experience. This particular transfer yields what is quite simply the most spectacular Blu Ray I have ever seen. More than any other studio, Fox has lavished a great deal of time and money on preserving its widescreen films of the 50's, 60's and 70's. Nowhere is the success of that campaign more evident than on CLEOPATRA.
I would note that, as part of the restoration process on its widescreen epics, Fox has struck new 35mm and 70mm film prints. Here in New York, and elsewhere, these prints have been screened theatrically in retrospectives of various sorts. As wonderful as the new CLEOPATRA Blu Ray is, I can only hope that everybody with an interest in this movie will one day have a chance to see it in 70mm on a giant screen. If you have that opportunity, it is not to be missed. It's an experience you'll remember for a long, long time.
95 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2012
Cleopatra may be the most opulent motion picture of all time and is a testament to Elizabeth Taylor and the other actors and artisans from this pre-computer generated image era. It was a high point for the magnificence of Todd-AO 70mm and the unique richness of De Luxe Color - all beautifully and faithfully transferred by 20th Century Fox to this new Blu-ray edition. I saw Cleopatra in its first run and recognized it's short-comings possibly caused by the severe cuts made to Joseph Mankiewicz's original vision to release Cleopatra, it is said, as two films telling the Caesar story in one film and the Anthony story in the second. One can only imagine how much of the story and character development got left on the cutting room floor. Cleopatra's legacy has moved far beyond earning the label as the most expensive film ever made - due to waste and mismanagement that nearly caused the demise of Fox Studios. There are "extras" on the Blu-ray version that expose many of such myths. I invite you to see this Cleopatra - a beautiful example of what Blu-ray can do for home viewing and the potential for visually jaw-dropping moments that show the art of motion pictures. This Cleopatra is perhaps more relevant than ever today with efforts to depict (at least Hollywood-style) a well-rounded view of one of the most famous female characters in history, as portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor, an icon of her times. I purchased my Blu-ray copy of Cleopatra in February, 2012 from amazon.co.uk after finding out it would play on U.S. players. This spectacular Blu-ray version of Cleopatra will soon be available to purchase in the U.S. Highly recommended to all film buffs.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2013
First let us clear up about the length. According to International Movie Data Base (IMDB.com) this movie existed in three lengths. There was the original length - 5 hours and 20 minutes. That was the director's cut and only survived the premiere run. Then there was the theatrical release length - the version reviewed here. Apparently to enable more showings per day and possibly to supply drive-ins, there was a shorter version yet.
Roddy MacDowell made the comment in print that eliminating 82 minutes from the movie shortened his role a great deal. I think the cuts focused the movie on the loves of Cleopatra and avoided the immensely complicated politics of the time. For that reason, I've always found the end of the movie (the disgrace of Antony, leading up to his suicide) jumbled.
Second - no movie deserves HD more than this. The movie was made before digital scenery was invented, so all of the immense Alexandria sets are really there. The costuming is glorious, and the huge moments (such as the entry into Rome) do not disappoint. (For connoisseurs, compare that with the closing scene of Star Wars - Phantom Menace.) The bigger the screen the better. The choreography provided for slave dancers is still of the Cecil B. and not Agnes DeMille variety.
The script was being written as they filmed. That created the immense problem of portions of the script being bloated and unwieldy.
This becomes obvious when you realize that the acting styles of the stars don't jibe at all. Elizabeth Taylor, when she isn't burdened with pseudo-monumental monologues, does a good job. It is professional acting at its best, and if it doesn't move us, I believe the fault lies with the script itself. Richard Burton - at the mature peak of his Shakespearean powers - gives a detailed account of Antony, but he allows himself to chew scenery at times. In contrast to Ms. Taylor, this contrast is awkward and becomes almost hammy. Rex Harrison is restrained and brilliant. More than one critic said that the movie became must less interesting after intermission (Caesar dies just before that PAUSE.) Hume Cronyn, Roddy MacDowell, Martin Landau, and all the other actors give great performances that might have been even greater with the extra 80+ minutes in place.
Joseph Mankiewicz always wanted to restore the full length for video release. VHS would not have worked. At the time it was "pan and scan" instead of letter-box, and you are lucky to have the actors even on screen. In an argument between Cleopatra and Antony, the width of the image was so large that only noses and mouths appear.
Apparently the missing footage hasn't been found. This review is based on the DVD, but I look forward to the Blu-Ray edition with great anticipation. It may not be 382 minutes long, but it is still the last, truly great spectacular movie, made before it became cheaper and easier to accomplish the impossible. (Now if only we can find the full-length Cleopatra.)
38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2013
I did a side by side comparison of the UK all region and the new US version. Here are a few of the improvements.
The CLARITY in the US version is like looking through a plate glass window. Not just in selected scenes, but through the entire movie. You'll know in the first 30 seconds of the pop up menu as it roams through a few scans until you hit the play button.
Example#1 the blue dress that Liz is wearing on the barge as she stands under a canopy, now shows the PATTERN of the dress better than before.
Example#2 the slaves that carry Liz down off the black sphinx had SILVER colored paint that looked like lighting bolts got COLOR CORRECTED and now show the true color of GOLD lightning bolts that MATCH the GOLD BRACELETS, that match the GOLD throne Liz sits on that match the gold dress THAT LIZ WEARS. All previous disks don't have it right with the silver color.
Example #3 On the barge that meet Marc Anthony, at the banquet, Liz shows up wearing a sheer white gown on all the old disks.The new US disk now color corrected, shows the there is a lovely pale pink of the most delicate shade and the white sheer is actually a overlay kind of see through cape?( Sorry I do not know what it is called in fashion lingo.
Example#4 in a battle scene, where the roman legions make what is called "the turtle" formation ( Men on the inside, shields and spears on the outside) You see amazing clarity on the designs on the shields. And this is in a scene filmed IN LOW LIGHT!
Example#5 in the entry into Rome - The African dancers have straw fringes on their arms and legs. The GREEN color now pops in new clarity, To be fair the old disks showed some color ,but not like this.
ODD? because of this new clarity, I noticed that there are TWO white pyramids in the background. You see the first after the semi nude lady dances. then a group of females appears with gold colored wings and behind that is the pyramid with the pigeons getting released. After Liz bows to Cesar, the camera cuts to a background shout of the arch of Titus? look quick and notice TWO of the identical pyramids. To me this suggests that something was cut from the entrance procession. because you never see the second pyramid enter and you see BOTH at EACH SIDE of the arch. Hummmmmmmmmmmm makes me wonder what else was cut from the procession. Was it not enough time?
PS: I'm writing this from memory so if there are a few misstatements I invite corrections. Just don't be so G.D. haughty in your comments. Oh, and don't bother pointing out grammar or spelling.
39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
This restored version - the 4-hour release that was immediately rejected by theatres as impossible to screen 2x per night, forcing more than an hour to be cut - is an absolute delight for the eyes. From the first minutes when Caesar appears, the viewer is utterly riveted by the splashy spectacle, the evocation of a vastly different time, and acting that can only be called first rate. The only thing that threw me off, as a Roman history nut, was the inaccuracies that could only be made by an ignoramus.
On the positive side, the drama is a complete success: Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, uses her feminine attributes and fine mind to advance a dream of staying in power and perhaps even create a new empire based on Roman power. To do so, she seduces first Julius Caesar, who restores her to power in a civil war with her brother-husband, and bears him a son. Once Julius dies, she then seduces his lieutenant, Marc Antony, eventually losing to the wily Octavian, Caesar's adopted son. In the process, she genuinely falls in love (with Antony), perhaps for the first time in her life. They die together by their own hand. Surely, this is one of the greatest dramas of power and love in the history of mankind and it is the basis of this film, executed to perfection.
The costumes, sets, and images of sex and power are wonderfully vivid, which the bluray version (I have the British one that is available for $10 in Europe) brings with the sharpest of clarity. Beyond the actors (whose salaries were the highest ever paid), these props are the reason for the cost of the film. In my opinion, they were worth every penny as there are few film experiences that could compete.
Finally, there is the acting. Taylor, just after her 1950s prime, is at her best as a politically savvy seductress, aging and scrambling to maintain her nation and heir in their positions of prominence. I found her convincing, astonishingly beautiful, and realistically shrewd. In my view, Rex Harrison believably projects the universal genius of Julius Caesar, whose calm in the face of overwhelming odds and ever-changing political calculus are implacable and unpredictable. McDowall is also a good Octavian, whom he plays as a sleazy, effeminate conniver, ultimately perhaps the smartest of all in a political sense. The only principal I feel does not give a subtle and interesting performance is Burton, whose Antony, while flawed as a love-starved drunk, is blandly formulaic. The supporting characters, such as Agrippa, are not all that distinguished, with the exception of the courtier Hugh Cronin.
On the negative side, the script really needed a scholar as consultant. Given that Mankiewicz was re-writing the script while directing, this was perhaps impossible. It is a pity, because while most of the blooper inaccuracies do not detract seriously from the storyline, they were constant irritants kind of like a buzzing mosquito at night. For example, Agrippa appears as a middle-aged lieutenant of Julius Caesar, when the person with whom he rose to prominence was Octavian, his coeval in age and talent. But there are bigger problems as well. Just prior to his assassination, Julius is shown as demanding that he be named King by the Senate, which he was far too subtle ever to do in life. This fundamentally distorts his character, making him more of a simple tyrant than a master manipulator whose end game, if he had one, will never be known due to his premature death. Finally, there are many political complexities that are left uncovered, such as Antony's massive and unprecedented failure to conquer Parthia, which broke him. Antony also had many implacable enemies, such as Cicero, whose right hand he had nailed to the Senate doorway during the civil war that followed Caesar's assassination. I know I sound like a pedant, but given the lavishness of the production, why not have made it more accurate?
With all of its flaws, I still recommend this warmly. The extras are also excellent, such as the documentary of the chaos of its production.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2014
I remember seeing Cleopatra in the movies in about 1963 or 1964. Iwas about 13 or 14 and thought it was a fairly slow-moving film. Watched it again this weekend on this 50th anniversary blu-ray edition and I have some thoughts.
This is the four hour and 6 minute roadshow edition that was shown on a reserved-seat basis. The picture on this blu-ray is stunningly pristine, one of the best I've seen yet. The sound is excellent also.
As for the film itself, it is fairly interesting and enjoyable watching it on blu-ray where you can stop and go at your leisure.
As for the performances, Taylor is okay as Cleopatra, nothing extraordinary. Burton overacts like crazy as Mark Antony. Furthermore, I forgot what a weak and insipid character he becomes after becoming besotted with Cleopatra. He spends most of the second disk moping and whining over Cleopatra until the film's tragic conclusion. (It was interesting that studio head Darryl F. Zanuck felt the same way. On a very good two hour documentary on "Cleopatra, the Film that Changed Hollywood," it is revealed that Zanuck was surprised about what a weak character Anthony was, upon viewing the film for the first time. I absolutely concur.)
Of the three leads, Rex Harrison is far and away the best as the charismatic Julius Caesar. The films definitely loses something when Caesar is assassinated and the second half is nowhere as good as the first. Harrison received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in this film and he deserved it. (He lost, but would win the Oscar the next year as Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.)
Roddy McDowall gives a terrific supporting performance in this film. (It is revealed in the aforementioned documentary that McDowall was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor due to a clerical error by the studio putting his name into the Best Actor, not Supporting Actor, category.) I totally forgot that one of my favorites, Martin Landau, appears in a major role as Ruffio, a General loyal to both Caesar and Antony. (I met Landau once, he was a very nice gentleman.) Carroll O'Connor appears briefly as a very miscast Casca. (Most of his performance must have wound up on the cutting room floor.)
The action scenes are okay, nowhere as good as many of the other epic spectaculars of its day. (On the documentary previously mentioned, there is a very brief shot of its New York premiere at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway. A couple blocks away, the marquee of the Cinerama theater can be seen which, at that time, was showing the roadshow version of How The West Was Won. Now there is a film I truly love.)
Cleopatra won four Oscars including Special Effects beating Hitchcock's far superior The Birds. I read where Hitchcock was quite annoyed by this and he had a right to be, the effects in The Birds were far more interesting and exciting than Cleopatra..
The two disk set includes trailers and the first disk has a nice short documentary originally shown on the Fox Movie.Channel comparing Fox's two out of control productions: Cleopatra and Titanic. (Speaking of "out of control," Cleopatra cannot be spoken about without mentioning the scandalous affair between Taylor and Burton during the making of this film. As one who remembers this period well, it is hard to describe what a big deal this was. One could not pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading about it. Today's Hollywood morons are almost out of control on a daily basis, we are never surprised by their obnoxious behavior. However in 1963, this out-of-wedlock affair was something out of the ordinary and, as stated, a real big deal.)
In conclusion, I enjoyed watching this blu-ray edition of Cleopatra. It is great to look out and, while not a great film, it was nowhere as tiring as I remember it being.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2013
It's a shame the bad rap this film has gotten over the years. To paraphrase the New York Times in its rave review at Cleopatra's opening - this is great epic entertainment, and unless you are predisposed to give Cleopatra the needle, it is a hugely satisfying and stirring spectacle. One of the common themes in many of the notices posted here on Amazon is the shock & pleasure of viewers who were surprised at how literate and beautiful the film really is. They had expected a travesty, a colossal eyesore ineptly acted. Over & over again the theme is replayed - low expectations giving way to astonishment at how fine the film really is....and always was. And now especially in this blu-ray edition.
With this film Elizabeth Taylor transcended her then considerable stardom, and became to millions the worldover THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR of legend, a veritable modern Cleopatra of wealth, excess, and star-crossed romance. This transformation was fueled by Taylor & Burton's very public adultery inviting the censure of the Vatican concerning her fitness as a mother, and debate by the United States Senate about revoking Taylor's citizenship on the grounds she was a threat to public morals. Adding fire to the inferno was Taylor becoming the highest paid "million-dollar plus a piece of the boxoffice" performer in entertainment history. Scandal did not seem to taint her.
At its opening, the critical opinion to Cleopatra was decidedly mixed - everything from raves to scorn....as would be expected when the director's 6 hour/2 film vision was whittled down to 1 film at 4+ hours, and then later for general release, cut again to 3+ hours. In reading some of the reviews at the time it becomes glaringly clear that many critics got insultingly personal and reviewed the highly paid sexual femme fatale rather than the actress' nuanced performance, finding it impossible to separate the two. And to blame Taylor for the astronomical costs is absurd. The remarkable DVD includes the documentary "Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood", which is a very thoughtful accurate attempt to correct this myth. From the start, the cast and director/writer were forced by a mismanaged 20th Century Fox to shoot from an incomplete script, practically in sequence - the most inefficient way to shoot a film.
The film was a boxoffice hit - not the flat-out bomb the film's detractors wished for. It was number 1 on Variety's Weekly Boxoffice charts month after month. It was the number one grossing film of 1963. Cleopatra continued to perform well in 1964. And as the above documentary states, it was one of the 1960s top moneymakers. No film with bad word of mouth plays at theaters for 6 to 15 months at roadshow prices in city after city. It just doesn't happen. The fact is that audience reaction to the film was much more positive than the critical reception.
Having said all of that, let me articulate why so many people love this film.
* Cleopatra has a great literate script. A very complex story of empire, dynastic ambition and love is rendered understandable and compelling. And the story it tells is remarkably accurate - some liberties are taken but the general arc of how history unfolded is correct
* The relationship between the 3 leads is well thought out and the dynamics in their performances shift accordingly. Caesar and Cleopatra have a relationship of ambitious peers who respect each other and agree to mutually use each other - their dialog fairly crackles with wit and innuendo. Antony and Cleopatra from the beginning are doomed. In spite of herself, her political judgement is compromised by her love. And he is besotted with her, living in Caesar's shadow.
* Taylor's Cleopatra is a complex compelling woman of force and dignity, fired by a fierce ambition to protect Egypt's independence and rule the world. In her is embodied the woman, the ruler, the statesman, and the exoticness of the ancient East. To the movie-going public at the time, she was the only actress beautiful enough and talented enough to play this role. At this point in her career, she had already been Oscar nominated 4 times and would be again for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?".
* The opulence of the production is staggering......Alex Norths music is stunning - remastered and rereleased by Varese Sarabande, it is one of the great original compositions for the screen. The costumes and headdresses are a sensational example of Hollywood craft and art. And a film on this physical scale would be impossible to produce today. I saw this film screened at MOMA in New York in the early 1990s as part of a 20th Century Fox retrospective. The reaction to the sets, the sheer size of the production, the attempt to recreate the exotic grandeur of ancient Egypt was an eye-opener for those in the audience seeing the film for the first time. From the entrance into Rome, to the barge at Tarsus, to the Battle of Actium and so forth there is one gorgeous set-piece after another.
* The intersection of art and life is the final factor at play. Here is where began one of the most potent and public of film partnerships - lived on screen and in the tabloids for close to 15 years. Whether you approved or disapproved of Taylor & Burton, there are few if any stars nowadays that can project that glamorous larger than life aura as they did. And that, coupled with the spectacle of the film's production - the gossip, the flood of news, the outrage, the money being spent to bring the story to the screen, the crises, and so forth - would simply not occur nowadays.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2015
Like so many fans of Elizabeth Taylor, I recall watching this movie for the first time in the 1970s. I liked it even though it was quite lengthy. I love period epic movies and this one was right up there with several others. Elizabeth Taylor, one of three well known actresses that have portrayed the Queen of Egypt, did a fantastic job. The costumes and everything were just gorgeous. Although, not quite sure the real Cleopatra looked like this. I don't care, it is a beautiful movie with an all star cast. For the time, it was plagued with over budget and delays. Every movie has had this in some form one way or another. Originally, the movie that was shot was much longer than the one we have presented here for us. There is still missing footage from this movie. Upon the premiere that Elizabeth went to I believe she became really upset by the cut footage. It was believed that it was too lengthy for theatrical release.
I am pleased with this visually stunning film released by Fox for the 50th Anniversary Edition here. The detail is just magnificent and may be the best version ever to be made on a home video format. All previous releases don't compare to this one. I have watched this on my 50" Ultra 4K and it is nothing short of spectacular!
The digibook that it is housed in is just gorgeous! Well done with pictures inside of some of the notable characters from the film. Blu-rays are housed in nice pockets, easy to get removed and put back in. This could be one of the very best Blu-rays to ever be made. Just my thoughts and I own over 400 Blu-rays as of this writing.
Special Features are spread out over the 2 Blu-rays ~
DISC 1: Cleopatra part 1 in High Definition, Commentary with Chris Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau, Jack Brodsky.
Cleopatra through the Ages: A Cultural History
Cleopatra's Missing Footage
The Cleopatra Papers
A Private Correspondence
DISC 2: Cleopatra part 2 in High Definition, Continued Film Commentary,
Cleopatra: The Film that changed Hollywood
The Fourth Star of Cleopatra
Fox Movietone News Archival Footage of the NY premiere and Hollywood premiere.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2013
I read the reviews that said Cleopatra's film restoration was very good. Well, they didn't lie. It's beautiful and just as great a film as it was when it was first introduced, actually, better because of all the extra footage. I sat down to watch it and thought I would be bored half way through. To my surprise I hardly realized the time passed. I will say I watched it over two days. Certainly, no one could match Elizabeth Taylor's beauty and was the perfect pick to play the Egyptian queen. Rex Harrison was superb, as he always is and RIchard Burton, although he came off as something of a wimp, played the part well. Roddy McDowell was a great Octavian and I really enjoyed his performance. I watched the extras on the DVD and found out that he was supposed to be nominated for best performance in a supporting role, but do to a glitch was nominated instead for a starring role and didn't win. He would have almost surely won if he had be placed in the right catagory. What a shame for such a talented actor. I know I will enjoy watching this film over and over again. As usual in my reviews, I don't get too technical or rattle off the names of all the behind the scenes directors and so on, But let me say that just looking at Irene Sharaf's costume design was worth the price of the DVD. Of course the fact that Ms. Taylor was wearing them helped. You should get this film for the pure pleasure of looking at the richness of the colors and the brilliance of those who saw this an epic film even if it did cost 40 million or so to make.