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This collector's edition set includes a unique documentary feature, The Epic That Never Was (1965, 71 min.), a remarkable behind-the-scenes look at Alexander Korda's ill-fated 1937 screen adaptation of I, Claudius. Starring Merle Oberon and Charles Laughton, the chronicle of this uncompleted masterpieces is an unforgettable coda to one of the greatest stories ever told.
The story begins in 24 B.C. during the reign of Augustus Caesar, Rome's first emperor, and ends in A.D. 54 with Nero on the throne. In between, I, Claudius details the scheming, murder, madness, and lust that passed for politics in the early years of the Pax Romana. The biggest worm in the Roman apple is Augustus's wife, Livia (the superb Siân Phillips), whose single-minded pursuit of power shapes the destiny of the Empire. With a carefully planted rumor here and a poisoned fig there, she gradually maneuvers her son, Tiberius, toward the throne, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and treachery that starts Rome on its helter-skelter slide into bloody chaos. Phillips somehow makes us understand this extraordinarily wicked woman. As she ages and her carefully wrought webs begin to unravel, it becomes clear that Livia has been as thoroughly poisoned by her own ambition as her victims were by her carefully prepared meals.
Further acting honors go to George Baker as Tiberius, who resists but eventually succumbs to the destiny forced upon him by his mother, and to John Hurt as a hilarious and absolutely terrifying Caligula. In one breathtakingly tense scene, the mad Emperor performs a dance in drag, then asks Claudius to critique it, perfectly capturing the horror of a world where one wrong word means death, or worse. Jacobi is the perfect Claudius, hiding his intelligence behind a crippling stammer and shuffling around the edges of events--until he finds himself pulled to the very center. His wry comments give shape to the tangled story of his family and help the audience make sense of a dauntingly complex cast of characters.
I, Claudius might seem a little studio-bound to viewers brought up on more recent big-budget costume dramas, but the topnotch cast and the incident-filled plot are more than enough to hold the attention through almost 11 hours of gripping, deliciously wicked Roman follies. This boxed set also includes a documentary entitled "The Epic That Never Was," about Alexander Korda's failed attempt to film I, Claudius in 1937. The film, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Charles Laughton as Claudius and Merle Oberon as Messalina, was abandoned unfinished, and it remains one of Hollywood's great lost movies. --Simon Leake --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In my opinion this series is a superb example of a relatively low budget production that is wonderfully written and acted. Read morePublished on April 21 2011 by sedgewick
Excellent service from Amazon. I Claudius is one of the best TV series (BBC/PBS) of all time with its exceptional acting and superbly written script. Read morePublished on May 8 2010 by DRUSUS
I've been a fan of this series for over 20 years. I finally bought the collection. I was so excited! Unfortunately the DVD's skip and freeze like crazy. Read morePublished on April 23 2008 by Gigi Boate
I so wanted to give this set 5 stars but I just couldn't. I Claudius is just way too dated and unsuspecting viewers might be put off by really poor production values. Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2006 by Dave and Joe
I watched "I, Claudius" over a week in July and found it thoroughly engrossing. Now, two months later I have just finished watching HBO's "Rome" on dvd. Read morePublished on Aug. 23 2006 by Brad
soundfactorync1 is getting bit pedantic here. What history has he been reading? The main sources are Tacitus and Suetonius. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2006 by Amazon Customer
first i must explain that i am a longtime student of roman history and the julio-claudinians in particular. Read morePublished on May 29 2004 by Cameron Boahn
I remember seeing this series on TV many, many years ago when I was still in high school. And was very happy to find it on DVD now. The DVD transfer is very good too. Read morePublished on April 6 2004 by onlyme1234
...but I have to give it only four stars because of its stunningly poor transfer to DVD. If you can imagine taping the series off the air with a VHS recorder and then taping the... Read morePublished on March 7 2004 by Confederate