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The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (Cleopatra/ The Crusades/ Four Frightened People/ Sign of the Cross/ Union Pacific) (1939)

Cecil B. DeMille , Loretta Young  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (Cleopatra/ The Crusades/ Four Frightened People/ Sign of the Cross/ Union Pacific) + Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (The Cheat / Merrily We Go to Hell / Hot Saturday / Torch Singer / Murder at the Vanities / Search for Beauty) (Universal Backlot Series)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Cecil B. DeMille, Loretta Young, Henry Wilcoxon, Ian Keith, C. Aubrey Smith
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
  • Run Time: 571 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E8JO32
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,221 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (Cleopatra/ The Crusades/ Four Frightened People/ Sign of the Cross/ Union Pacific)" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

One of Hollywood's greatest showmen gets a worthy showcase in The Cecil B. De Mille Collection, consisting of five of the legendary producer-director's most characteristic films. As noted by David Thomson in his influential book A Biographical Dictionary of Film, "De Mille's movies are barnstormers, rooted in Victorian theatre, shamelessly stereotyped and sentimental, but eagerly courting 20th-century permissiveness, if only solemnly to condemn it." That's an apt description of the films included in this nicely packaged box set, which offers no extras beyond the films themselves. Thomson is equally accurate in calling De Mille's films "simple, raw, pious, and jingoistic," but as these five well-preserved films make abundantly clear, De Mille was always a consummate entertainer. One of Hollywood's foremost pioneers, De Mille cut an iconic figure, single-handedly defining the archetypal image of the dictatorial director, complete with boots, jodhpurs and an ever-present riding crop to enforce his domineering authority. After failed attempts to work independently and, later, for MGM, De Mille found a permanent home at Paramount in 1932, and it's there that he made these five films (now owned by Universal as part of their pre-1948 Paramount library), which represent the glorious clash of Christian virtues, epic-scale production values, lurid sexuality, and self-important grandiosity that make De Mille's films so curiously (and in many cases hypocritically) enthralling.

The Sign of the Cross (1932) is quintessential De Mille, now famous for its pre-Code (i.e. pre-censorship) scene of peep-show nudity as Claudette Colbert (playing Poppaea, wife of Charles Laughton's Roman emperor Nero) takes a tantalizing bath in goat's milk, daring DVD viewers to freeze-frame "the naughty bits" while Roman prefect Marcus (Frederic March) struggles to reconcile his loyalty to Rome with his forbidden love for the Christian maiden Mercia (Elissa Landi), who's destined for the lion's den. Full of outrageous spectacle (including dwarves in the Roman arena), this blood-and-guts epic is pure De Mille compared to the more conventionally formulaic adventure of Four Frightened People (1934), also starring Colbert as one of the four titular characters shipwrecked on a remote Malay island (filmed at Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, in Hawaii) and forced to fend for themselves. It's a stodgy but frequently amusing adventure, with Colbert's uptight schoolmarm growing sexier and less inhibited with each passing scene. Colbert returns (De Mille obviously adored her) in the title role of Cleopatra (1934), easily seducing Marc Antony (played by De Mille favorite Henry Wilcoxon) in a film as lavishly appointed as it is melodramatically extreme. Wilcoxon pairs with Loretta Young in The Crusades (1935) with De Mille once again mixing piety with prurience in a religious epic that promises plenty of sex but, in classic De Mille fashion, remains steadfastly chaste. Union Pacific (from Hollywood's golden year of 1939) is a grandly entertaining Western that mangles history (specifically, events surrounding construction of the transcontinental railroad) while casting gunslingers Joel McCrea and Robert Preston in a contest for Barbara Stanwyck's affections.

Choosing a favorite among these five films is purely a matter of personal taste, but for all of his weaknesses as a director (not the least being a condescending and self-righteous arrogance toward his audience), De Mille was never, ever boring. These films helped to make Paramount the most profitable studio of the 1930s, and they hold up remarkably well. Despite the complete absence of bonus features (Universal once again taking the low-cost option with no-frills packaging), each film is presented in pristine or near-pristine condition, ripe for first-time viewing or nostalgic rediscovery by vintage film buffs everywhere.--Jeff Shannon

Product Description

Legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille earned a place in cinematic history when he helped create Hollywood's first feature-length film, an event that established Hollywood as the motion picture capital of the world. A master of spectacular epics, his films garnered unparalled acclaim for their scope and grandeur. Now, for the first time ever, five of his most popular films are available in one premium DVD collection. Experience the breathtaking dangers and delights of ancient Rome in The Sign of the Cross; trek through a perilous jungle with Four Frightened People; thrill to the passion, suspense and intrigue of Cleopatra; journey back in time with the glorious story of The Crusades; and see how the West was really won in the explosive Union Pacific. With a glamorous roster of screen legends, including Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton, Barbara Stanwyck, Anthony Quinn and many more, this 5-disc collection is a phenomenal reminder of the innovator who made moviemaking what it is today.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cecil B. DeMille at his most spectacular July 17, 2006
Producer-director Cecil B. DeMille was one of Hollywood's great storytellers. His movies are sometimes derided as hokum, as with the magnificent remake of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956 that shows on TV every Easter season. But give the man credit for truly believing in the plots he was telling and for hiring the finest people on both sides of the camera. Decades later, his films are still being watched and greatly enjoyed.

Universal's THE CECIL B. DeMILLE COLLECTION contains no less than four grandly entertaining and gorgeously photographed masterworks--THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932, Paramount), CLEOPATRA (1934, Paramount), THE CRUSADES (1935, Paramount), and his masterpiece UNION PACIFIC (1939, Paramount). Only the badly written and ludicrously acted FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE (1934, Universal) is a dud. DeMille's actors in SIGN OF THE CROSS include Claudette Colbert as an evil empress, Charles Laughton as Nero, Fredric March as a Roman officer, and Elissa Landi as the Christian girl whom March will sacrifice his life for. Watch for Colbert bathing in asses' milk, which two kittens lick. This is the uncut roadshow version.

Two years later, Colbert is Cleopatra and her leading men are Warren William and Henry Wilcoxon. I can never remember which is Julius Caesar and which is Marc Antony. This visual feast won a Cinematography Oscar for Victor Milner, who would work frequently with Mr. DeMille. The Interior Decoration should have won also. This 1934 production, running a tight 102 minutes, is light years more entertaining than the four hour 1963 epic.

THE CRUSADES has Henry Wilcoxon again, this time as Richard the Lionhearted. We are in 1200 A.D., where the Christians are fighting for control of Jerusalem.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epics on an Epic Scale August 17, 2007
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The movie that made me want to buy this collection was "Cleopatra" with Claudette Colbert as a kind of "flapper queen of Egypt" which to me has always been a great hoot. While these are not the sorts of movies I would use to illustrate a particular historical epoch due to their accuracy, I would show them if I wanted to entertain someone. The Crusades is a good example with its characterization of a fictional king "Michael of Russia" when Russia as a state did not even exist.

De Mille was a larger than life figure and he was drawn to showing larger than life figures Colbert plays both Cleopatra and Nero's amoral wife covorting in mikl baths with passers by in "Sign of the Cross." The Crusades, while not historically accurate has hosts of memorable scenes. Union Pacific features Barbara Stanwyck in an adventerous role.

This is an excellent collection of De Mille's films and I am looking forward to others being released on DVD in the future
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun from a Master March 8, 2007
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Cecil B. DeMille will never be viewed as a master of cinema along the lines of a John Ford, a Howard Hawkes, an Alfred Hitchcock, or a John Huston. But he did know how to delivery the goods. I do believe that anyone who love movies from the '30's and '40's will enjoy this collection.

For me the highlight of the collection is Claudette Colbert. She is so much fun to watch in both CLEOPATRA and SIGN OF THE CROSS. She is truly magnficent!!! And you can see why she was such a popular star. She may have won her Oscar for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, but her all-knowing performance as Cleopatra probably help cinch the award for her.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cast of thousands - but zero extras! December 15, 2006
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Universal's collection of several of the great showman's biggest hits is a half-hearted affair - the films are there, but the showmanship is completely missing in a lackluster presentation.

De Mille's Cleopatra is much more fun than you'd expect, played as much for deliberately camp comedy as for spectacle and a lot pacier at 104 minutes than the Elizabeth Taylor version. Warren William plays Caesar as De Mille himself, Henry Wilcoxen plays Anthony as an oaf and Claudette Colbert takes centerstage as the kind of vixen who knows which side of the Roman Empire her bread is buttered. At times De Mille's tongue is firmly in his cheek - not least a wonderfully drawn out death scene from Leonard Mudie that wouldn't look out of place in Carry On Cleo or Cleo's spectacular seduction of Tony on that fabled barge - but there's some fine filmmaking here too, not least a great battle montage padded out with footage from the silent Ten Commandments and a fine bit of censor baiting as a foreground hand ostensibly playing the harp seems to almost paw at Colbert's body. It ain't history but it is fun. Nice score from Rudolph Kopp too.

De Mille's The Crusades isn't history either, but it's certainly a lot more fun than its reputation implies. Wilcoxen reprises his macho oaf routine as Richard the Lionheart, but despite the film being best remembered for failing to make him the major star De Mille thought he could be, he's a surprisingly confident and rather likeable oaf: Wilcoxen was always a better actor than he was ever given credit for, even if his sword has a better part in the movie than he does. Loretta Young is the gushing God-botherer Berengaria and many of De Mille's regulars pop up - Ian Keith, C.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
best of CB DEMILL
Published 1 day ago by Rick
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
This grouping was very special and of course, my interest in Loretta Young made it easy for me to choose this set.
Published 16 days ago by Carol C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Really old movies that actually are elements of film history
I bought the set to get "UNION PACIFIC" but the others no matter how corny are elements of movie history and not the later epics that are what the guy is known for. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jesse E. Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Classics
Older Cecil B. DeMille movies, some hard to find elsewhere. The oldest show their age but all are well crafted and classic. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane M.
5.0 out of 5 stars I got for only one movie Union Pacific cz it was the best price
will watch others some time but if I don't like will sell singles on Eb and keep the Union Pacific 5 stars just for the one movie I have this movie on VHS but wanted on DVD... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karen Halus
4.0 out of 5 stars Three great movie's.
If you like Cecil B Seminoles movies these are three of the best, will make a great addition to your collection.
Published 6 months ago by liz
4.0 out of 5 stars Silver or any other screen 1st prize
Release the restraints of old social mores and tech (CGI to the idiots)...
DeMille is what the likes of Cameron and ike will hope to be remembered: he was the first to stretch... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Janusz Peters
5.0 out of 5 stars The rolled up rug scene is hilarious.
This is a 1930's glitterati combination of films. Cleopatra, is my favourite. It is campy, super over-gilded and sparkly. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Lambie's MOM
5.0 out of 5 stars Union Pacific was the main draw.
Everything I expected it to be. I wanted a copy of Union Pacific. The collection appeared to be the best deal on the net for getting Union Pacific.
Published 8 months ago by Michael L. McClure
3.0 out of 5 stars DeMille Collection
The DVD's were in good shape, but the Movies themselves were not the quality I thought they would be. They are just ok.
Published 8 months ago by Shortcake
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Jack Palance: TV series "Bronk"
The full series is now showing on Warner Archive streaming service.
Jan 5, 2014 by C. Steward |  See all 7 posts
No bonuses on Universal DVD boxed sets
I too am disappointed that MCA did not include any extras, not even trailers. I do wish they included the alternate scenes filmed for the re-edited 1940s reissue of SIGN OF THE CROSS. However, being an MCA release, I am not surprised at these "bare bones" releases.
May 24, 2006 by Joe NY |  See all 2 posts
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