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Cleopatra (1963) 1963

G CC

This epic classic, now with restored picture and sound, stars Elizabeth Taylor as the Egyptian queen whose romance with a Roman (Richard Burton) may decide the fate of an empire.

Starring:
Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton
Runtime:
4 hours, 11 minutes

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When renting, you have 30 days to start watching this video, and 48 hours to finish once started.

Rent Movie HD $3.99
Rent Movie SD $2.99

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By J. Michael Click on December 10, 2010
Format: DVD
There seems to be a great deal of confusion regarding the various running times attributed to "Cleopatra", and which version is available on home video as of early 2012. Let me try to help those readers who have been seeking to purchase the most complete version possible.

When director and editor Joseph L. Mankiewicz first screened the rough cut for Fox executives back in 1963, the film ran approximately 5 and a half hours. Mankiewicz conceived the film being released as two separate features, the first detailing Cleopatra's relationship with Julius Caesar and the second exploring her liaison with Marc Antony. Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck adamantly refused Mankiewicz' plan: Fox had so much money invested in the film that the studio was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Zanuck wanted to rush the film into theatres quickly and recoup as much money as possible while the public was still fascinated by the real-life romantic scandal taking place between Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) and Richard Burton (Antony). He ordered Mankiewicz to edit the film down to a cut that ran a little over four hours (248 minutes). This is the version that was shown to reviewers and early "roadshow" audiences.

However, when it came time to send the film into general release, theatre owners complained that the movie was so long, it could only be shown once per evening. Zanuck agreed and had the film cut again, down to about 222 minutes, and then a second time to a little over three hours in length (192 minutes) so that it could be shown twice per evening and thus, theoretically, bring in twice as much money, and quickly. This 192 minute theatrical version thus became the most complete edition of the film that most original audiences ever saw.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
That a film as good as CLEOPATRA is was created at all under the madness and panic of it's legendary production is indeed an amazing feat. That CLEOPATRA has been given such loving care in it's restoration in this DVD of the "Road show" print and the attendant bonus materials is a wondrous gift to those who love this film.
The documentary, "Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood" is in on it's own an engrossing and informative two hour movie. For anyone who knows little of the history of CLEOPATRA, or who was not around at the time, this documentary will give them the feeling of what those last days of old Hollywood were like. And therein one can find the reasons why this intimate epic is indeed the wonder that it is. Much thanks must be given to the Mankiewicz family and the producers of the documentary.
The print and the sound of CLEOPATRA seems now to surpass what I recall it to be in its first presentation nearly forty years ago. The depth of the colors and the richness of the shadows are indeed splendid. In it's present form it is hard to believe this film is as old as it is. The commentary track is like finding the lost treasures of the long dead monarch. For there are wonderful recollections by Martin Landau, Tom and Chris Mankiewicz, and even Jack Brodsky gets to read sections from his book "The Cleopatra Papers". But I must give special mention to Landau's part. With his keen eye for the art direction of John DeCur one sees things in the background and along the edges of the scene that one never noticed before. Such lovingly detailed sets and interiors will never be seen again. The costs today are just too prohibitive.
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Format: VHS Tape
When I first saw "Cleopatra" (1963) at the theater it was a big let down. I think the public was awaiting something completely "out of the mold" after being bombed by an aggressive publicity campaign. It's my feeling that this was the cause of "Cleopatra" being initially a big flop.

More than thirty years after its release I saw this movie again and was amazed: such a great epoch reconstruction, such historical accurateness, such great performances from the three main characters!

The story is well known. A young and beautiful Egyptian princess seduces and gets protection and support from the mighty Roman general Julius Caesar. A love affair emerges and a boy is born. Cleopatra seeks Caesar to be King of Rome and his son to be his heir. Unfortunately March Ides arrive and Caesar is murdered by his entourage.

Cleopatra flies to Egypt; there she awaits the development of political events. Finally Marc Antony arrives and starts a new love affair. There is a final confrontation among the Roman rivals and fate is again blind to Cleopatra's hopes.

Decoration and Costume both won, deservedly, Oscar Award. A full scale reproduction of Alexandria's port and marketplace is shown. The Egyptian palaces' reconstruction is amazing. The same may be said of Roman buildings and halls.

Cleopatra's costumes are gorgeous, she wore 65 different! The wardrobe of all the cast is impeccable!

Special mentions must be addressed to: Rex Harrison's performance as Julius Caesar, sober and realistic, no overacting or histrionics; Elisabeth Taylor at the apex of her career is just adorable; Richard Burton gives the audience a passionate and ruthless personification of Marc Antony.

A film to be admired and treasured!

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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