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Masada - The Complete Epic Mini-Series

4.5 out of 5 stars 344 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In first century A.D., Flavius Silva (Peter O’Toole), commander in Roman Palestine, leads his forces in combat against the remaining Jewish Zealots who have taken refuge in the seemingly impregnable fortress of Masada. There, the engineering and military might of Rome faces the passion and ingenuity of Eleazar Ben Yair (Peter Strauss) and his people. Based on the novel "The Antagonists" by Ernest K. Gann, this epic, 4-part mini-series was shot on location in Israel.


"A victory? What have we won?" laments a breathtaking Peter O'Toole as the Roman warrior Flavius Silva. "We've won a rock in the middle of a wasteland, on the shores of a poisoned sea." Thus does Masada, the epic 1981 miniseries about a horrific battle in ancient Palestine, echo the terrible toll of war in general, and of the brutal conflicts in today's Middle East in particular. Masada, from the golden age of miniseries (Roots, Shogun), is a transportive viewing event--shot on location, and apparently no expense spared.

The film retells (with some dramatic license) the true story of an uprising in Palestine of a ragtag band of Jews, in a fortress called Masada, who refuse to surrender to the governing Romans. O'Toole, as Flavius Silva, is the brilliant commander who, over the course of several years of trying, and failing, to breach Masada, comes to regard the leader of his foes, Eleazar ben Yair (the charismatic Peter Strauss), with a certain amount of respect and awe. If left to Flavius, he might have simply leave the holdout fortress and return to the Italy he so longs for; but the Roman emperor demands victory--at any cost.

The performances are uniformly crisp and believable; the direction by Boris Sagal, economical; the screenplay, sharp and incisive. David Warner, who won an Emmy for his performance, plays the brutal Roman henchman Falco with seething determination. The location shooting is nothing short of spectacular. There is sorrow in the story of Masada, but an uplifting message in the ability of true believers to create their own destiny. --A.T. Hurley

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Peter O'Toole, Peter Strauss, Barbara Carrera, Alan Feinstein, Giulia Pagano
  • Producers: Jennings Lang, Richard Irving
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Full Screen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Koch Vision
  • DVD Release Date: September 11, 2007
  • Run Time: 394 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (344 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000S0KYTE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,956 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Masada - The Complete Epic Mini-Series" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Hornaday on July 6, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Masada is one of the most eagerly anticipated DVD releases of the year. This Classic TV 1981 miniseries is arguably one of the greatest ever produced in its genre, and garnered a lot of awards in its day. It is MORE than highly recommended!

It is well written and has a stellar cast that more than lived up to the script. The series, based on Ernest K. Gann's historical novel The Antagonists, is a dramatization of a documented revolt by nearly a thousand Jerusalem Jews against Roman oppressors in A.D. 72 to 73.

Epic in its scope, the actors bring nobility and pathos to the ultimately inspiring and tragic story. Following a city-wide siege by Rome's soldiers, Jewish Zealots move into a desert fortress in the mountains of Masada of Judea. It is from that remote location that they make their last stand against the tyrannical Roman Empire. Amazingly, their defensive battlement is strong enough to convince the enemy to negotiate after a two-year battle!

The brilliant Peter O'Toole, portrays Cornelius Flavius Silva, commander of the Roman legions, while Peter Strauss (who was cast in several miniseries in the 80's) portrays the Zealot leader Eleazar ben Yair, who end up developing an improbably respect for each other during the life-and-death struggle.

O'Toole, is fresh from the Roman conquest of Judea. Exhausted emotionally and physically, he has been affected by the constant warring, but remains the ruthless Commander of the elite Tenth Legion. He yearns to return home to Italy, but is prevented from doing so by a violent uprising of a small band of courageous Jews led by the volatile renegade soldier, Eleazar ben Yair (Strauss).

Silva is ordered to capture Eleazar and his followers.
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Format: VHS Tape
As a teacher of ancient history, I am well aware of the theories surrounding the fall of Masada, as well as the cited inaccuracies in this film. However, for sheer entertainment and quality of performance, Masada is still one great movie!
Be advised that the shorter version (2 hours) omits a great deal of material included in the much longer mini-series format. Nevertheless, for the average viewer, the abridged version is packed with enough epic drama to suit just fine.
Peter O'Toole's Flavius Silva is peerless. His emotionless eloquence is an excellent portrayal of the general of Rome's undefeated tenth legion challenging the 900 Jewish raiders who have fled to Masada's heights. Peter Strauss (Eleazar) nearly matches O'Toole's brilliance as the fiery leader of the Jewish rebels, who prefer to die 'stealing victory' from the Romans rather than surrendering.
I have been to Masada twice, and honestly--it was nearly impossible to tell that the film really wasn't shot at the site! The highlight of the film is the massive siege engine's ascent up the Roman ramp, and the battering ram's assault on the wall. The concluding suicide sequence is handled with reserve and tact.
The final forty minutes are underscored by an exhilarating musical score that serves to heighten the tension as the inevitable outcome nears. The end is replete with superbly written dialogue, as well as attention to detail in evidencing the engineering expertise of Ancient Rome.
Because much of what is known about the real story of Masada is speculation, the less one knows about the incident, the more one can enjoy the film. Seen for what it--great entertainment, and not a history lesson, Masada will not fail to please.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Ive bought Masada in its single VHS and its 4 VHS version. I own the soundtrack. I'm a MASADA-MANIAC. I scooped up the DVD on first sight, although the DVD art looked a little.."unofficial" by comparison with the lavish 4 tape box set. It seems that MASADA is owned by MCA-Universal, but this release is put out by KOCH Entertainment. Okay, I thought, so the cover art is a bit flat...at least it's out on DVD! Well, I watched it, and it looks REALLY good. Not restored or even cleaned, mind you. You can see scratches and damage to the negative, but its only minor and to be expected with anything that's been in the vault since the 80's. However, what I was aghast to notice are gaps in the scene where Silva is deciding to torch the wall of Masada or not. The scene is clipped short on the DVD. In the original film, Silva (Peter O'Toole) says "Burn it!" to his engineer, and storms off. Then we see the archers setting their fires. Before he says that line on the DVD, the screen goes black, and they cut to the archers shooting fire-arrows into the wall. Hmmm. I dug out my 4 tape VHS to be sure. Sure enough, his "Burn it!" line is missing from the DVD. Indeed, I noticed there is other dialog missing from this scene as well. Silva asks for suggestions other than fire from his officers. When no one speaks up he tells them he doesn't blame them, and would probably keep silent if he was in their place. Those lines aren't there either. Now, this is just ONE scene I noticed, but I suspect there are probably other bits missing as well. While its not the end of the world, I am disappointed. Why couldn't MCA have just put out a decent and COMPLETE version of Masada themselves? Suffice to say, Im holding on to my 4 tape VHS set, which I have to recommend over this DVD release. Sorry folks. Keep your fingers crossed, maybe next time they'll get it right.
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