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The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Charlton Heston , Rex Harrison , Carol Reed  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, Diane Cilento, Harry Andrews, Alberto Lupo
  • Directors: Carol Reed
  • Writers: Irving Stone, Philip Dunne
  • Producers: Carol Reed
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: February 22, 2005
  • Run Time: 138 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006GANX2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,658 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Agony and the Ecstasy" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison portray two of the Renaissance's most colorful figures in this historical drama based on Irving Stone's best-seller set in the early 16th century. When Pope Julius ll (Harrison) commissions Michelangelo (Heston) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist initially refuses. Virtually forced to do the job by Julius, he later destroys his own work and flees to Rome. Eventually resumed, the project becomes a battle of wills fueled by artistic and temperamental differences that form the core of this movie. Nominated for an Oscar® Cinematography and named one of the year's best films by the National Board of Review.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
211 of 214 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I planned a ceiling, he planned a miracle" May 15, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
There is no other film on the subject of art that is better than this one in my opinion. Irving Stone's best-seller was a great read, but in this case the film is better than the book. It centers on the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the contentious but invigorating relationship between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II; one drove the other "to complete his work", and even their verbal battles were productive. It is about the courage of putting one's vision into reality, the hard work, and the faith in one's self and in God.
The script by Irving Stone and Philip Dunne is fabulous; the words flow like sweet wine and there is not a single unnecessary scene, or rarely one that is not meaningful. The direction by Carol Reed is meticulous, the cinematography by Leon Shamroy a marvel, and the score by Alex North adds much to the film. The costuming and sets are lavish for the papal quarters and the Medici household, and give one a sense of 16th century Rome, and the depictions of the fresco painting technique is interesting and educational.
Charlton Heston, gaunt and bearded, is brilliant as Michelangelo, as is Rex Harrison as the warrior pope. The interactions of these two actors is riveting, and the dialogue between them worth hearing repeatedly. Others of note in the cast include Diane Cilento as the Contessina de Medici, Harry Andrews as Bramante, and Tomas Milian as Raphael (the most famous papal portrait I know of is by Raphael, of Pope Julian II).
Though Stone's book and script take much artistic license, there is also a good deal of accuracy. This period of 16th century Italy was one of the most fascinating in all world history, and Pope Julius II was not only one of its greatest art patrons, but also an extraordinary man.
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101 of 106 people found the following review helpful
I'll leave the artistic merits of this movie for others to argue over. Suffice it to say that it moves at a leisurely pace, and that the two main actors (Heston and Harrison) take turns mugging, gnashing their teeth and chewing the gorgeous scenery. However, since Amazon's product listing doesn't list the technical specs, here they are:

This DVD release of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY was made from the original 65mm Todd-AO negative, digitally restored. Aspect ratio is correct at 2.20:1, anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. The colors are deeply saturated, and the picture looks quite sharp, with little grain on my high-end Sony HDTV CRT.

The available soundtracks (all Dolby Digital) are 1.0 mono English, 2.0 stereo English, 1.0 mono French and 1.0 mono Spanish. (Contrary to what another reviewer here says, there is NO 5.1 surround soundtrack -- a sorry deficiency for a film originally released in 6-track.) IMPORTANT: On my copy of the disc, the DEFAULT soundtrack is the 1.0 mono English. There is no separate menu for selecting the audio you want, so you must press the AUDIO button on your DVD remote ONCE to get the 2.0 stereo English soundtrack. You'd think Fox would want people to hear the stereo track by default!

The good news is that the 2.0 stereo track is very clean, with the original 5-channel screen spread and directional dialogue faithfully preserved. It's not as full and crisp as a modern soundtrack, but remember that this was recorded forty years ago. If you listen with headphones, it's easy to hear how much of the dialog was re-recorded on a dubbing stage. In a few intimate scenes, though, the whirring of the camera is faintly audible.
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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost a spiritual journey August 6, 2000
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
Though I am useless at sculpting and almost so at painting, I have sort of adopted Michaelangelo as my creative mentor. This movie cemented that thought.
Michaelangelo is a master sculptor from Florence, carving the tomb for the warrior-pope Julius (no, he isn't dead yet even though they're carving his tomb). But Julias drags him from his commission for another one-paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel with "appropriate designs." Michaelangelo, who has only dabbled in fresco painting, is both enraged and inspired. He destroys the paintings and runs away from Rome, but returns when a vision shows him how the ceiling should be. Both men, creator and destroyer, artist and pope, are changed forever by the "work of love" that is the Sistine Chapel.
Charlton Heston was in fine form in this movie-he makes you feel everything that Michaelangelo feels. I sometimes think that the real men rather than the monuments (like Moses) that he plays are more his style. He does it realistically, wearing ratty clothing and often covered with paint dribbles. Michaelangelo does not stay the same-at the end of the movie, he is a humbler and wiser man than before.
And don't diss Rex Harrison-once I got over the "Doctor Doolittle as pope" thing, I found him very enjoyable. He manages to overcome some lines that would make me giggle in his place, including, "Is it proper for your pontiff to conduct Mass in a barn?" He makes you hate Julius initially, but as the movie progresses you grow to love him as much as Michaelangelo.
There are some truly excellent secondary characters, like Tessina the noblewoman who sort-of-secretly loves Michaelangelo, but understands that his paintings come first.
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