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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2003
I think Cleopatra is the best movie ever made, it is also the most expensive movie ever made costing twice more than Titanic in today's money, but it just didn't make it to the screen. Intended to be two movies, Caesar and Cleopatra & Antony and Cleopatra, three hours each. But partly because of the attention of the famous Taylor-Burton affair, Darryl F. Zanuck shamelessly ruined Cleopatra from its 6-hour two movies into ONE 3 hour 14 minute movie, which is the TV version, which is Horrible! But luckily, the 4-hour version, this DVD version, survived the brutal cutting of the film. This movie is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen. The sets, clothes, props, and music... they are just FLAWLESS! As many people know, Rex Harrison as Caesar and Richard Burton as Antony both got nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, but because the movie was cut to one, they were nominated against each other in the same movie, and more importantly, their best scenes were cut because of the length, so none of them won (but they deserve to), and Roddy McDowell got nominated in the wrong section and his votes were canceled. Martin Landau was going to be nominated as Best Supporting Actor, but after the film was ruined, the Academy Awards dropped him. Elizabeth Taylor's best scenes were cut off that she was so angry she puked at the Premiere.
The Music of the film is the BEST. Till this Day, I don't know why the Oscars didn't give Cleopatra the award. Of course, Oscars didn't give Gone with the Wind, Gladiator, and lots of other film's beautiful scores the Oscar, it's weird.
How do I know about all about Cleopatra? I have ALL the books, interviews, and even the full movie shooting script of this movie, I am the biggest fan! If you have seen the movie, you'll realize that Cleopatra was usually unhappy and tense. But there is a happy side of her, for example, there was a scene where Cleopatra, Antony and her son with Caesar were in the garden, Cleopatra watching them play swords. Then Caesarian, the son, stubbed Antony with his wooden sword and Antony cried out in "pain", and Caesarian suddenly went crying, saying "don't die, don't die!" Antony suddenly comes back to life and tickles Caesarian, then drags Cleopatra into them and they were all laughing and rolling on the floor... it was so happy, and that's one of the many sides of Cleopatra that's been cut off.
In the four-hour version, we first see Cleopatra dumped out of a carpet. That was NEVER intended to be the first scene we see Cleopatra. From the script I learned that there was a whole story of Cleopatra outside Alexandria, and she and the others planned to meet Caesar and how to sneak her in. Just after they got to the Palace, some soldiers almost caught them and the maid had to lure the guards away... it was thrilling to read the pages of the script! There are sooo much to saying about what Cleopatra should have been, but sadly, no one expect FOX has the missing footage, and they are the best scenes of the movie (some scenes were so humorous that I laughed out loud!).
In the late 70's, 20th Century FOX called a recording session to record the lines of the movie so they can restore it, since the sound elements were missing. But it was called off at the last minute. But the three-and-half hours of missing film footage was NEVER lost! With today's technology, they can totally restore the film back, including the sound. They also have the missing part of the unused scores, but why doesn't FOX, after making a two hour documentary about the film, restore it? No one knows! Movies like "A Star is Born", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Sparticus", and many other classic movies has been successfully restored and loved by many. Why not Cleopatra? I am writing just to let you know the truth about the movie, and hopefully, if more people know maybe FOX will restore the film to the intended way. In a Late interview with four-time Oscar winner Joseph L Mankiewicz, the director and screenwriter of the movie, when the subject Cleopatra went up, he literately cried (on TV!). He said he wanted the film to be perfect that he bit his nails until they were bleeding that he had to wear gloves when he was writing the script... He called Cleopatra his "butchered masterpiece". But however, it's still one of the best movies out there! Totally worth buying!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
CLEOPATRA [1963] [50th Anniversary Edition] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] One of the Grandest Cinematic Spectacles of All Time!

This epic masterpiece has never been more glorious. Meticulously restored with a stunningly vivid picture and breath-taking sound, the scope and scale of this legendary cinematic treasure is brought to life like never before. This 2-disc 50th Anniversary Edition includes an incredible DigiBook that provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at this 4-time Academy Award® Winning Film.

Elizabeth Taylor stars as Cleopatra, the cunning queen of Egypt who seduces the rulers of Rome, only to meet her match with Mark Antony [Richard Burton]. Their passionate romance could decide the fate of the world’s greatest empires.

FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1963 Academy Awards® were as follows: Nomination: Walter Wanger for Best Picture. Nomination for Rex Harrison for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Academy Awards® for Leon Shamroy for Best Cinematography for Color. Academy Awards® for John DeCuir, Jack Martin Smith, Hilyard Brown, Herman A. Blumenthal, Elven Webb, Maurice Pelling, and Boris Juraga for Art Direction. Academy Awards® for Walter M. Scott, Paul S. Fox, and Ray Moyer for Set Decoration. Academy Awards® for Best Art Direction and Set Decoration and Color. Academy Awards® for Irene Sharaff, Vittorio Nino Novarese, and Renie for Best Costume Design and Color. Nominations for James Corcoran at Twentieth Century Fox Sound Department and Fred Hynes at Todd-AO Sound Department for Best Sound Mixing. Nominations for Dorothy Spencer. Academy Awards® for Emil Kosa, Jr. for Best Special Effects. Nominations for Alex North for Best Music and Score (Substantially Original). Awards and Nominations: 1963 Golden Globe® Awards were as follows: Best Motion Picture for Drama for Rex Harrison for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Drama. Roddy McDowall for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. Joseph L. Mankiewicz for Best Director for a Motion Picture.

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, Martin Landau, Hume Cronyn, George Cole, Carroll O'Connor, Andrew Keir, Gwen Watford, Kenneth Haigh, Pamela Brown, Cesare Danova, Francesca Annis, Richard O'Sullivan, Gregoire Aslan, Martin Benson, Jean Marsh, John Hoyt, Desmond Llewelyn, Andrew Faulds and Peter Grant

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Producer: Walter Wanger

Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall and Sidney Buchman

Composer: Alex North

Cinematography: Leon Shamroy

Video Resolution: 1080p [Color by Deluxe]

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 [Todd-AO]

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 4.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 DTS, Spanish: 5.1 DTS and Portuguese: 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Castellanos, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese [Brazil], Swedish, Hebrew, Iceland, Chinese, Portuguese, English Audio Description, French Audio Description, Spanish Audio Description, Danish Audio Description, Dutch Audio Description, Finnish Audio Description, Norwegian Audio Description, Swedish Audio Description and Chinese Audio Description

Running Time: 1st Blu-ray: 1:56:56 and 2nd Blu-ray: 2:14:11

Region: Region A/1

Number of discs: 2

Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: How could a film become one of the year's highest grossing films and still manage to be widely regarded as one of Hollywood's biggest flops of all time? Perhaps if a film's budget surges from around $2 million to over $45 million (some reports say $60 million) and takes years rather than the allotted time to shoot, then you have a good justification. Add Elizabeth Taylor's near-fatal illness, director and cast changes during filming, and constant rewrites to the mixture. Then top it all off with an adulterous love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and you have a perfect recipe for disaster. Well, either that, or just enough scandal and publicity to garner Oscar® acclaim and entice curious moviegoers to the theatre. This is exactly what happened when 20th Century Fox released ‘Cleopatra’ in 1963. It isn’t essential to know the tempestuous tale of its making to revel in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s spectacular ‘Cleopatra’ [1963] feast of literary insight and melodramatic extravagance. It should neither help nor hinder delight in the film to know that it cost more to make than any film to date and reportedly, forty-four million dollars (which would be more than three hundred and thirty million dollars today). But, as with other unduly derided personal and visionary masterworks, such as ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and ‘Ishtar,’ that arose from extended and expensive productions, the budget is often the first thing that is always mentioned, and now with the splendid new restoration Blu-ray release of ‘Cleopatra,’ which should help to galvanize much more interest into this classic Hollywood film and its deserved place in history, especially when it comes to Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s career and in the cinematic firmament of our imagination. After two years in the making, and $7 million spent, Fox had ten minutes of useable footage. Rouben Mamoulian subsequently resigned before shooting resumed, and Taylor suggested Joseph L. Mankiewicz to take his place. Joseph L. Mankiewicz had directed her in ‘Suddenly, Last Summer,’ for which she earned an Academy Award® nomination. He had also directed Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in 1953, proving his keen sense of classical history. Thus, Joseph L. Mankiewicz seemed like the perfect choice. 20th Century Fox paid out $3 million dollars to secure the director and buy him out of previous obligations.

The London shoot went terribly, due in part to Taylor’s ill health, in part to her dismay with the script, in part due to Rouben Mamoulian’s own lack of command, in part due to London weather. Three months of shooting were scrapped in 1961, when Rouben Mamoulian quit and was replaced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Amazingly, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who was, of course, both a writer and a director, was hired to do both jobs. He quickly generated a script outline that was intended to yield two three-hour features: one about Caesar and Cleopatra, the other about Antony and Cleopatra. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Taylor’s health got worse, landing her in the hospital, near death from pneumonia. When she recovered, the production moved to Rome and started from scratch in September, 1961 and especially with Joseph L. Mankiewicz writing the script at night for the next day’s action. Meanwhile, the paparazzi (who had only recently been given that immortal name, by Federico Fellini in ‘La Dolce Vita’) were making life for Elizabeth Taylor and her then husband, Eddie Fisher, miserable, and became all the more trouble when she began spending lots of time with her Antony, Richard Burton.

The Roman shoot, which ran through June, 1962, featured colossal sets, enormous manpower especially with seven thousand extras for one scene and, for episodes of naval warfare, actual ships (“We had to get permission from the local government to rebuild some of the town’s bridges.”). The last leg of the shoot took place in Egypt later that summer, by which time the head of the studio that had backed the shoot to the bitter end, Spyros Skouras, was forced to resign. His successor, Darryl F. Zanuck, fired Joseph L. Mankiewicz, then rehired him to shoot additional scenes in March, 1963 and then took editorial control, cutting the film into one four-hour feature.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s ‘Cleopatra’ is put together with the stuff of legend that the director experienced as personal reality, and he filmed the story as if he had been there. The film may be as close as Hollywood gets, to a cinematic Shakespeare, less in its lucidly incisive, rhetorically reserved images than in its blend of coruscating language, rowdy comedy, and grand yet urgent and intimate performances. The fact that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had become an item is obvious from watching the film; the passion that they generate on-screen has a thrillingly spontaneous, electric ardour. The production was cursed and yet, in this regard, it was, perhaps more than any other, blessed. There is so much else that is exciting, like the naval battle of Actium, described with huge dashing galleys and tiny models on a plotting board; the famous orgy on the barge of Cleopatra; the drama of Antony riding out, all alone, deserted by his soldiers, to face the army of Octavian in the final humiliation of himself and his fatalistic love.

There are also so many people who are to be credited with fine work like Roddy McDowall as the sinuous Octavian; Hume Cronyn as the sage Sosigenes, counsellor to Cleopatra; Cesare Danova as her loyal bodyguard; Martin Landau as Rufio, a Roman general, and many more. And there are others to thank like Walter Wanger, who originated and produced the film; Leon Shamroy who directed the photography; and Alex North who wrote the potent stunning musical score.

The dark clouds lingering over Cleopatra's production undoubtedly stained its release, overshadowing the actual quality of the film itself. The plot, Cleopatra using her feminine wiles to stabilise her Egyptian power by seducing Caesar and Marc Antony, seemed almost irrelevant. Audiences were more interested in the romance between Taylor and Burton than Cleopatra and Antony. The film's dialogue was smart and the spectacle was stunning, yet never quite seemed worth the price tag. Over time, Fox did eventually make its money back. In 1966, ABC paid $5 million for two showings, finally putting Cleopatra back into the black.

There may be those who will find the length too tiring, the emphasis on Roman politics a bit too involved and tedious, the luxuriance too much. But unless you are one of those sceptics who are stubbornly predisposed to give ‘Cleopatra’ the thumbs down. I don't see how you can fail to find this as a generally brilliant, stunning, awesome moving and a totally satisfying film.

Blu-ray Video Quality – “You’re in the show with Todd-AO” as they used to say with this striking and magisterial 2.20:1 transfer presented in this stunning and totally awesome 1080p resolution encoded image is so gorgeous that it sometimes seems almost possible to walk right into the picture. Sharpness is superb throughout without any artificial-looking edge enhancement. Colour saturation is spot-on with reds, purples, and golds being especially memorable. Flesh tones do vary a bit seeming sometimes too tan compared to other times, but that could very well have been due to the shooting locations in Rome which may have baked the skin of some of the actors, and most of the time, skin tones look completely natural and authentic. The film has been divided into 53 chapters over two discs which includes the overture, entr’acte, and exit music chapters.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The discs offers you the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and the 4.0 Dolby Digital sound mixes, and each is a solid aural achievement. Though most of the surround activity is contributed by Alex North’s celebrated score which gets a nice spread through the fronts and rears and accounts for much of the bass used in the channels, there are occasional uses of panning effects through the sound field, as in the Procession into Rome sequence. Dialogue has been superbly recorded and has been placed in the centre channel. And for those who are interested, the entr’acte music does begin with the Blu-ray Disc 2.

First Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

First Audio Commentary: The commentary starts off with Martin Landau, who talks extensively about the start of the film. He tells us about the different people involved with the film; and it was like a United Nation with all the different nationalists. Martin also informs us that while doing the audio commentary that viewing the film again, that he remembers what went on behind-the-scene, especially how he got on with all the main actors. He also mentions about the way the film is shot, especially where you see the actors sometimes sun tanned and sometimes not, also seeing the actors losing weight and then gaining weight. So all in all this first part of the audio commentary, which ends Martin Landau’s part at 1:31:00 and this actor’s very informative and very intelligent information in telling us the intimate facts on what was involved in the making of ‘Cleopatra.’ Next up in this particular audio commentary is Tom Mankiewicz at 1:39:19, who is the son of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Tom mentions how Elizabeth Taylor had a lot of control on what actors or directors were to be allowed to work on the making of ‘Cleopatra,’ but 20th Century Fox were not keen on having Richard Burton in the film, as they felt at the time he was not film star quality, but of course was totally perfect for the film. Tom also informs us that his Dad had a love / hate battle with Rex Harrison, but despite this, he had a lot of respect with this British actor. Tom also tells us of when there were in Egypt, he tells of the terrible experience when they wanted the local people for the crowd scenes, but because they were illiterate, they then had to bring in young students and nearly had a riot, but with 5 military guys on camels with machine guns, they were able to quell the riot and he felt that would have been the end of filming in Egypt. Tom also informs us of the total nightmare scenario with the paparazzi that was totally out of control, especially when Elizabeth Taylor left the hotel and when Tom walked out with a lookalike Elizabeth Taylor, it took the pressure off the real Elizabeth Taylor, but despite this, they acted like lunatics, especially in Egypt and Rome and so ends Part One of this fascinating and very interesting audio commentary and especially informing us of the historic information on the making of the most talked about Hollywood film of the 20th Century.

Special Feature: The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence [1963] [1080p] [16:9] Jack Brodsky and Nathan Weiss were publicist for 20th Century Fox during the epic production of ‘Cleopatra.’ One was stationed in Rome, the other in New York, and then they switched places. Pre-E-mail, Skype, and Non-disclosure agreements, their private correspondence consisted of detailed letters and telegrams, informing each other about the latest battles between director and studio, set politics, and strategies for how to control the explosive press coverage of the infamous Taylor-Burton romance. Originally published in book form in 1963, their communications reveals the true experience of being inside a cinematic tornado. But what you get to see is a series of still images. To start the process you have to press the ENTER button on your remote control and then to continue viewing the images, you have to press the NEXT button on your remote control. Happy Viewing!

Special Feature: Cleopatra Through The Ages: A Cultural History [2011] [1080p] [16:9/2.20:1] [7:51] Here we have a fascinating insight into the historic analogy about Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, and we get a nice contribution for the likes of Stuart Tyson Smith [Professor and Chair of the Anthropology at the UC, Santa Barbara]. He also talks about the different portraits of Cleopatra throughout history and mentions William Shakespeare play “Antony and Cleopatra” and also compares the Theda Bara film version against the 1963 film. He also feels that the author George Bernard Shaw’s novel “Caesar and Cleopatra” was a much more accurate portrayal of the real life Cleopatra. So all in all this is a quite a nice extra, that gives you a lot more information about what made Cleopatra the phenomenon she was and why we are all fascinated by this Egyptian Queen.

Special Feature: Cleopatra’s Missing Footage [2011] [1080p] [16:9/2.20:1] [8:12] We get a fascinating insight about the missing footage that was deleted from the longer film version and we get to hear from the likes of Brad Geagley [Author/Film Historian] and Schawn Belston [Fox Film Archivist]. When it was originally shot, it ran for over 5 hours, the head of 20th Century Fox objected, as that way they would only be able to show the film once a day and a total loss of earnings. When it premiered in New York on the 2nd June, 1963 it ran for 4 hours and 6 minutes, but on general release in most cinemas, the film the public saw ran for 3 hours and 12 minutes. The two presenters would hope that the missing footage would be eventually found to bring out the ultimate edition on a Blu-ray release. But the version you get to see on this Blu-ray Release is the running time of 4 hours and 6 minutes. Archive photos courtesy of Roger Marguette.

Special Feature: Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy with CEO Tom Rothman [2011] [480i] [4:3] [29:29] Wow this is a really aggressive in your face, with an equally over the top presenter and I am so glad I don’t have to witness this person being broadcast on our British Television, as he is totally obnoxious. But what this so called presenter tells us is just stating the obvious of information we already knew about the film inside information about the film ‘Cleopatra’ financial disaster. One bonus is you get to see some rare behind-the-scene film clips.

Second Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Second Audio Commentary: With the start of this part two commentaries, we start off where we left off where with the 1st part with Tom Mankiewicz tells us of his Father arriving at Pinewood Studios in the UK and said they were mad to ever contemplate filming in England, because of the terrible wet and damp overcast weather that the UK is prone to and said Italy should been the preferred location and of course the whole Pinewood Studios project had to be abandoned, despite going over budget. But one big problem when they wanted to film in Egypt was their anti-Jewish attitude and in doing so, would not allow certain people into their country, especially Elizabeth Taylor. But because it was rumoured they would lose $8 million of revenue, they dropped their religious objections. Next up is Christopher Mankiewicz at 00:15:34 and he tells us that he was the second assistant director for ‘Cleopatra’ until January 1962 of that year of filming. He also informs us that originally the sets were built in Hollywood, as well as shooting some scenes. Then they decided to move everything to England, where they did some more filming. Then eventually his Dad demanded it should all be filmed in Rome and eventually is it was a third reincarnation. He also informs us being the second assistant he did not get very intimate with the actors, but preferred to be with the dancers, who he eventually married one of the dancers. Christopher also tells us about how his Dad got the best out of the actors, where they would walk off the set and have a quiet word with them. Then precisely at 1:10:44 Martin Landau comes back to the audio commentary. He talks about scenes where he cried, but the studio decided to cut it from the film, as they felt seeing a man crying was not the done thing. With the battle scenes, Martin informs us that the scene with Andrew Faulds was filmed in Malibu. After that information we don’t get much more audio commentary from Martin Landau about the insight into the filming of the battle scenes in ‘Cleopatra.’ But precisely at 1:23: 20 in comes Jack Brodsky, who informs us that he was the publicist for ‘Cleopatra’ from the end of 1961, through the Spring of 1962 and at the time of filming his wife had a difficult pregnancy and had to go back to America and was replaced by his good friend Nathan Weiss. We also hear that his hero was the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who was also a good friend to him, as well as a confident. We get to hear a great insight about the saved correspondence with Jack and Nathan sent to each other, that were kept with the Editor of the Esquire publication, and also tells about Norman mailer had seen the private correspondence and informs Jack they definitely have a successful book on their hands. Jack also tells us that because of the private correspondence and especially the intimate revelation of the affair between Burton and Taylor were having while filming ‘Cleopatra’ that they were informed by 20th Century Fox that this information should not be included when the book is published. Despite Jack and Nathan doing a big publicity junket on ‘Cleopatra’ and all what was going on with the filming, but people were only interested in the intimate affair between Burton and Taylor. Despite working 6 days a week in conjunction with the film, Jack and his wife had a brilliant time in Rome, as they had a really nice flat and also informs us that the Italian Restaurants are the best in the world, even compared to the Italian Restaurants in New York City. At precisely 1:51:06 Tom Mankiewicz comes back into the audio commentary again, and he praises the British Actress Francesca Annis, who of course becomes a great stage and film actress. He also praises the British Actor Andrew Keir, who was of those no nonsense actors who lights up the screen, as also all the other British Actors who appeared in the film ‘Cleopatra.’ Tom also eludes to us that when the film was finished, his Father wanted ‘Cleopatra’ to be as two separate films and because 20th Century Fox was bankrupt, Darryl F. Zanuck said he would only allow the film to be shown as one film, which broke the heart of Tom’s father, especially that no one would ever get to view the 6 hour version. So ends another informative audio commentary that was fascinating to hear such intelligent audio conversations from the likes of martin Landau; Tom Mankiewicz; Christopher Mankiewicz and Jack Brodsky. I know that when watches such a long film as ‘Cleopatra’ and then to have to again watch the 2 Blu-ray discs again with the audio commentary, well be advised, it is well worth the effort, as you get to hear some many intimate facts at the making of ‘Cleopatra,’ especially what went on behind-the-scenes, plus what the actors were like and the inner thoughts of Martin, Tom, Christopher and Jack on their personal experiences with all aspects of the awesome and spectacular ‘Cleopatra’ and I give it 10 out of 10 for the professional presentation of especially the audio commentary and one of the best I have heard in a very long time and it has given me so much insight into appreciating ‘Cleopatra’ even more, than when I first viewed the film in the cinema.

Special Feature: Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood [2001] [480i] [4:3] [1:59:07] This is a Prometheus Entertainment documentary, in association with Van Ness Films; Foxstar Productions; Fox Television Studios and American Movie Classics. This made for American TV Special brings us much more insight into this epic Hollywood classic film ‘Cleopatra’ and the very interesting audio commentary is narrated by Robert Culp. But before we get into the actual documentary, we get the infamous words from Robert Culp saying, “It has been called the most expensive motion picture ever made.” “It has been called the biggest flop of all time.” “It is known as a film that nearly bankrupted a Hollywood Studio.” “And a scandal that set the press into a feeding frenzy.” “That had the public begging for more.” Robert Culp also informs us that for nearly four decades, the story of ‘Cleopatra’ has been shrouded in rumour and marred by gossip. It is one of the most famous and infamous stories ever put on film. But behind the spectacle, is a true story as compelling and as tragic as anything seen on the screen. It is a story that changed lives, and a film that changed Hollywood forever. Robert Culp also informs us that to the world outside, Hollywood in 1959 were still the place where dreams and fantasies came true, but behind the façade and backlot, there was a run of insidious run of bad luck, that was eating away at their profits.

But as we journey through this nearly 2 hour special documentary, we get contributions from the likes of Roddy McDowall [Actor/1995]; Mel Gussow [Darryl F. Zanuck Biographer/1995]; Jack Brodsky [Publicist for Cleopatra]; David Brown [Former Executive for 20th century Fox]; Joe Hyams [Co-Author of “My Life With Cleopatra”]; Brad Geagley [Film Historian]; Geoffrey Sharpe [Archivist]; Richard Merryman [Journalist]; Kim Masters [Entertainment Journalist/Author]; Keith Baxter [Actor]; Stephanie Guest [Daughter of Walter Wagner]; Richard Green [Archivist]; Tom Mankiewicz [Son of Joseph L. Mankiewicz]; Hume Cronyn [Actor]; Chis Mankiewicz [Son of Joseph L. Mankiewicz]; Rosemary Mankiewicz [Wife of Joseph L. Mankiewicz]; John Karlsen [Actor]; Brook Williams [Friend of Richard Burton]; Martin Landau [Actor]; Carey Harrison [Son of Rex Harrison]; C.O. “Doc” Erickson [Production Manager for Cleopatra]; Richard Zanuck [Former Production Chief]; Robert Wagner [Actor]; Maureen O’Hara [Actress]; Bill Mechanic [Former President of 20th Century Fox] and Nick Redman [Music Producer].

What is really interesting and fascinating about this Special Documentary is all the intrigue surrounding of the making of ‘Cleopatra,’ plus all the gossip and the scandal relating to the so called secret affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. We also get to hear about the runaway budget that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox and no one knew how to stop this rollercoaster disaster from ever happening and whether 20th Century Fox would ever survive the massive debt they incurred because of the bloated budget in bringing ‘Cleopatra’ to the silver screen. But what we also get to see a lot of behind-the-scene rare look at the making of ‘Cleopatra.’ But even better is the very nice dedication near the end of this epic Special Documentary of the main contributors to this epic Hollywood film and it reads as follows: Richard Burton [1908-1990]; Rex Harrison [1908-1990]; Joseph L. Mankiewicz [1909-1993]; Walter Wagner [1984-1968] and Roddy McDowall [1928-1998]. But I think the final comment by Robert Culp, sums up the love and affection we all have for ‘Cleopatra,’ when he says, “Cleopatra, is a name that conjures mystery, power and seduction.” “It is also a name that has come to suggest opulence, grandeur and great excess.” “It is the name of one of the most intriguing women who has ever lived.” “In the name of one of the greatest and infamous films, ever made.”

Special Documentary: The Fourth Star of Cleopatra [2001] [480i] [4:3] [9:06] With this special documentary, the commentator refers to who the fourth star is of ‘Cleopatra’ and that is the production itself and all the behind-the-scene crew who helped to make ‘Cleopatra’ what it is today and the process of all the technical knowhow in bringing this epic film to the silver screen. Narrated by Phil Tomken.

Fox Movietone News: Archival Footage of the New York Premiere [1963] [480i] [4:3] [6:00] This is split into two instalments of the 20th Century Fox chronicle of the lavish American premieres of 'Cleopatra.' The first one provides archival footage from the New York opening, and includes appearances by such luminaries as Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowell, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Helen Hayes, Joan Fontaine, Red Buttons, composers Richard Rodgers and Leonard Bernstein, and the 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck, while the second takes us to Hollywood and then Washington, D.C. for their respective premieres. In L.A., Rex Harrison, Malcolm McDowell, Lucille Ball, and Rosalind Russell are among the celebrities attending, while a parade of U.S. senators and diplomatic dignitaries walk the red carpet in the nation’s capital.

Theatrical Trailers: Trailer A [1963] [480i] [2.20:1] 4:39]; Trailer B [1963] [480i] [16:9] [00:45] and Trailer C [1963] [480i] [2.20:1] [4:39] What is quite intriguing is basically Trailer A and C are the same print, but with Trailer C you get a slightly different voice over and a lot more extra wording appearing on the screen.

BONUS: The stunning beautiful Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook acts as a case that holds the 2 Blu-Ray discs and includes the 28 page booklet which is full of stunning colour printed pages, which is well worth purchasing just for this and also has absolutely fascinating information about the film, as well as the director and some of the main actors in the film.

Finally, all that philosophical hoo-ha aside, the ‘Cleopatra’ 50th Anniversary Blu-ray is a visually-stunning reminder of pre-CGI, cinematic splendour. Every set, costume, and stroke of the makeup brush is visible in gorgeous detail. Each high resolution gleam of the film’s golden gilding explains its $44 million production budget. Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s ‘Cleopatra’ redefined the boundaries of the Hollywood epic, even as it faltered in its storytelling. No matter your opinion on the movie itself, you have to respect that Cleopatra has been cemented into film history. The 50th Anniversary Blu-ray does justice to the film’s complete legacy honouring it while not shying away from its troubled production. This is definitely a must-have for any film for any film buffs out there. This Blu-ray release from 20th Century Fox, it is pure reference quality and you will get total euphoria, that will sure to dazzle 100%. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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If "CleoTaylor" had not been so cheap, I wouldn't have bought it. But cheap it was, and despite the millions spent on it, cheap it will always be. It is the best example of how NOT to film a spectacle. Only Rex Harrison makes a true attempt to act, and with his death at midpoint, the movie descends into a public embarrassment for all involved. Liz Taylor had great beauty, but she walks and overacts her way through the movie, stripping the character of any dignity or grace. She is a shrew with emotional outbursts that are truly ugly. Burton must really have been drunk as he staggers through the part, the worst performance of his career, and with Taylor he gave some true stinkers. Reliable actors such as Roddy McDowell are so badly miscast that they do not understand their roles and butcher them one after the other. The spectacles are laughable. Taylor's entrance into Rome is so historically wrong and utterly over the top that it provokes snickers, not awe. The sea battle is too tame, too emotionless, and badly plotted. Almost any child in a bathtub could have done as well with his or her toy boats.
The colour is sumptuous, the costumes nonsense, the sets absurd, the direction a disaster at every point. Face it, beautiful as she was, Liz Taylor only acted well in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" thanks to MGM playing with the script to make it suit her and make a fool out of Paul Newman. The oscar she eventually won was one of Oscars biggest mistakes for she downright awful paired with Eddie Fisher. It is probably her miscasting as Cleopatra, that doomed the film to becoming one of the dumbest films, worst made films, of all time. All the other errors seem to have come from that. Poor Rex Harrison, he didn't deserve this atrocity.
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on November 27, 2002
'Cleopatra' is a four-hour, very talky and plotty yarn, set against some of the most elaborate and exquisite scenery ever put on film. It is also the ultimate example of Hollywood excess and movie star ego. With a very literate script and an outstanding cast, 'Cleopatra' should have been a blockbuster, and yet it comes across as a lumbering behemoth, beautiful and intelligent while also plodding and distant. Scene after scene goes by, with endless dialogue and exposition but very little action. It's as if Manckiewicz were filming a stage production, rather than a big budget feature. Kudos to the set and costume designers for their almost overwhelmingly elaborate creations, and extra kudos to Rex Harrison for virtually carrying the first two hours of the film. Cleopatra is a relic of a Hollywood age gone by; the age of the epic specatcle. Though worth the 4 hour time investment, it is not one of the all-time greats, and yet its sheer star power in the form of Elizabeth Taylor makes it a classic despite itself.
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on December 15, 2001
The Elizabeth Taylor version of CLEOPATRA has taken quite a beating over the years, and its easy to see why: the film is elephantine, with an emphasis on making everything BIG; as such, it eventually sinks under its own weight.
It is difficult to imagine any other actress better suited to play Cleopatra, but Taylor does comparatively little with the role, coming off as less the complex Queen of the Nile than a luxury-loving little minx out for a slinky good time. Rex Harrison and Richard Burton fare a bit better, although not much. Still, the emphasis is on spectacle--and in spite of the big budgets, historic costuming, and mammoth sets it is really here that the film falls apart.
The problem, really, is that the film's spectacle is too imaginative and takes too many liberties. A good example is found in the role of Cleopatra herself: the historical Cleopatra considered herself Greek and probably wore Egyptian attire only for ceremonial occasions, but the film prefers to present her flatly in stereotypical fashion, when the truth would have been considerably more complex and entertaining. Much the same may be said for most of the characters in the film. As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept these characters as anything else but movie stars playing parts.
And in terms of spectacle, in spite of all the money poured into it, the movie looks cheap. Sure, they had a budget of heaven only knows how much money, but they had to stretch it to costume so many people that the wardrobe department had to settle for nylon-looking material, and a great many of the sets betray the fact that they are sound-stage created. Then, when really lavish spectacle occurs--as in Cleopatra's entrance into Rome--the production values clash: they seem to be two completely different movies.
It is difficult for me to understand why any one would want to spend money on a VHS, much less a DVD (even with various bells and whistles added), of this particular film. If you must see the film, you're better off renting it or catching a rerun on cable television. For CLEOPATRA is essentially a curiosity: a film that should have worked... but didn't.
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on November 29, 2001
It's a shame the bad rap this film has gotten over the years. To paraphrase the New York Times in its rave review at Cleopatra's opening - this is great epic entertainment, and unless you are predisposed to give Cleopatra the needle, it is a hugely satisfying and stirring spectacle. One of the common themes in many of the notices posted here on Amazon is the shock & pleasure of viewers who were surprised at how literate and beautiful the film really is. They had expected a travesty, a colossal eyesore ineptly acted. Over & over again the theme is replayed - low expectations giving way to astonishment at how fine the film really is....and always was.
With this film Elizabeth Taylor transcended her then considerable stardom, and became to millions the worldover THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR of legend, a veritable modern Cleopatra of wealth, excess, and star-crossed romance. This transformation was fueled by Taylor & Burton's very public adultery inviting the censure of the Vatican concerning her fitness as a mother, and debate by the United States Senate about revoking Taylor's citizenship on the grounds she was a threat to public morals. Adding fire to the inferno was Taylor becoming the highest paid "million-dollar plus a piece of the boxoffice" performer in entertainment history. The vitriolic press lathered themselves up to bash her; but her films continued to earn millions. Scandal did not seem to taint her.
At its opening, the critical opinion to Cleopatra was decidedly mixed.- everything from raves to would be expected when the director's 6 hour/2 film vision was whittled down to 1 film at 4+ hours, and then later for general release, cut again to 3+ hours. In reading some of the reviews at the time it becomes glaringly clear that many critics got insultingly personal and reviewed the highly paid sexual femme fatale rather than the actress' nuanced performance, finding it impossible to separate the two. And to blame Taylor for the astronomical costs is absurd. The remarkable DVD includes the documentary "Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood", which is a very thoughtful accurate attempt to correct this myth. From the start, the cast and director/writer were forced by a mismanaged 20th Century Fox to shoot from an incomplete script, practically in sequence - the most inefficient way to shoot since it meant many huge monumental sets stood idle for inordinate periods of time waiting to be used.
The film was a boxoffice hit - not the flat-out bomb the film's detractors wished for. It was number 1 on Variety's Weekly Boxoffice charts month after month. It was the number one grossing film of 1963. Cleopatra continued to perform well in 1964. And as the above documentary states, it was one of the 1960s top moneymakers. No film with bad word of mouth plays at theaters for 6 to 15 months at roadshow prices in city after city. It just doesn't happen. The fact is that audience reaction to the film was much more positive than the critical reception.
Having said all of that, let me articulate why so many people love this film.
* Cleopatra has a great literate script. A very complex story of empire, dynastic ambition and love is rendered understandable and compelling. And the story it tells is remarkably accurate - some liberties are taken but the general arc of how history unfolded is correct
* The relationship between the 3 leads is well thought out and the dynamics in their performances shift accordingly. Caesar and Cleopatra have a relationship of ambitious peers who respect each other and agree to mutually use each other - their dialog fairly crackles with wit and innuendo. Antony and Cleopatra from the beginning are doomed. In spite of herself, her political judgement is compromised by her love. And he is besotted with her, living in Caesar's shadow.
* Taylor's Cleopatra is a complex compelling woman of force and dignity, fired by a fierce ambition to protect Egypt's independence and rule the world. In her is embodied the woman, the ruler, the statesman, and the exoticness of the ancient East. To the movie-going public at the time, she was the only actress beautiful enough and talented enough to play this role. At this point in her career, she had already been Oscar nominated 4 times (and would be again), and won once (for the wrong performance - but THAT'S another story!!!). In several years she would win again for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?".
* The opulence of the production is staggering......Alex Norths music is stunning - remastered and rereleased by Varese Sarabande, it is one of the great original compositions for the screen. The costumes and headdresses are a sensational example of Hollywood craft and art. And a film on this physical scale would be impossible to produce today. I saw this film screened at MOMA in New York in the early 1990s as part of a 20th Century Fox retrospective. The reaction to the sets, the sheer size of the production, the attempt to recreate the exotic grandeur of ancient Egypt was an eye-opener for those in the audience seeing the film for the first time. From the entrance into Rome, to the barge at Tarsus, to the Battle of Actium and so forth there is one gorgeous set-piece after another. I enjoyed "Gladiator" a great deal, but as so many have expressed, it looks cheesy and false next to the Forum and Alexandria built for this film.
* The intersection of art and life is the final factor at play. Here is where began one of the most potent and public of film partnerships - lived on screen and in the tabloids for close to 15 years. Whether you approved or disapproved of Taylor & Burton, there are few if any stars nowadays that can project that glamorous larger than life aura as they did. And that, coupled with the spectacle of the film's production - the gossip, the flood of news, the outrage, the money being spent to bring the story to the screen, the crises, and so forth - would simply not occur nowadays.
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on November 15, 2001
All my life, I had never wanted to watch this movie, because of its bad reputation as being too long and too boring.
A friend hired it, and I agreed to watch the beginning, only to see what the DVD quality looked like. Two extremely entertaining hours later, the "Intermission" title came up, and I knew I was hooked. I bought this DVD the next day, and watched the second half the moment I got it home.
I can see that watching this movie in a theatre would be impossible to do. Its length is made worse by the drawn-out, plodding second half, but with the DVD, you can turn this movie into a mini-series and watch it over a few nights, enjoying the sumptuous sound and music, the awesome wide-screen cinematography and the magnificent sets and costumes as though you were in a theatre.
Liz Taylor is marvellous, spitting venom one minute, a suductive kitten the next - Richard Burton's voice would melt even the most vicious dictator's heart, and Rex Harrison is Henry Higgins in armour. All three lead actors are stunning to watch, belting out their well-crafted lines as if they were thinking them up off the top of their heads. Cleopatra's entry into Rome must have cost the national debt of a small country, and the costumes must have made many seamstesses blind. The Alexandria Palace exterior set almost steals the show, it is amazing.
If you love Hollywood-Rewrites-History movies, this is definately for you. I'm so glad I didn't see it on TV - all those commercial breaks would make it unbearable.
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on November 1, 2001
This is an outstanding presentation of the classic CLEOPATRA, renowned as being one of the costliest and most exessive movies ever made.
Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison all give superb performances. They are more than equaled by a supporting cast that includes Martin Landau, Roddy McDowall, Hume Cronyn and Francesca Annis.
This splendid DVD set comprises the Road-Show version of the film including Overture and Intermission, along with a bonus disc containing art galleries, documentaries and trailers.
Although the film was regarded as the one that almost bankrupt 20th Century Fox, it broke box-office records when first released and has since made it's money back in countless re-releases and television screenings.
Originally screened in a length of 6 hours, the Road-Show version runs for 4 hours. The cutting of the film was instigated by Darryl Zanuck, who decided the film was too long to be screened in one sitting. Archivists and restoration experts have since looked for the missing two hours of film, hoping to restore the film to it's proper length and re-releasing it.
This DVD is a beautiful testament to one of the most ravishing films ever made...CLEOPATRA.
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on September 24, 2001
Starring Liz Taylor, and Rex Harrison. This 4 hour long melodrama has setpieces and costumes that would cost the studio half billion to recreate today. It has behind-the-scenes gossip and news that would make Cleopatra blush.
The film moves with the speed of a snail, yacking and talking of characters that aren't identifiable. The great acting can't make up for the snoringly butt-aching length. Note to filmmakers: At least stop the film in several places; add two intermissions instead of just one. Let the audience stretch. There's no innovations in direction. You get the same narrative scope from "Ben-Hur." But at least, the way that was made kept people interested.
The cost and all it's setpieces is the grandest of all. But the pull truly great epics; "Gone With The Wind," "The Ten Commandments," "Lawrence of Arabia" and the recent "Titanic" had on people was either intrigue or something in the characters. This has neither that nor a reason to stay with it for 4 straight hours.
You may be asking why I'm giving this 4 stars if i hate it so much--but I've got a reason. The images of Liz on her throne and all the Roman garb around her; they're some of the most memorable in film. Not because the film was popular (Ha Ha), but it did have an effect on pop culture, causing it to gain that "classic" title.
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on July 18, 2001
A masterpiece of the late studio era, though a little lo0ng in length, Cleopatra newly restored and put on DVD is not to be missed. There are so many great things about this movie, one in particular. A hollywood movie actually attempting to display the Fall of the Roman Republic (though romanticized), Spartacus attempted to do so, and while that was a decent film, its glaring historical inaccuracy is unforgivable. Never before on film has the great Gaius Julius Caesar been brought to such vivid life, though he was a bit old and slightly overweight. Rex Harrison and Richard Burton make this movie, not Elizabeth Taylor, if she was the center than the whole movie would be her own private birthday party entertainment as if she was a spoiled little girl. Ive seen Taylor in better roles, and this wasn't it. But R. Harrison as Caesar, and R. Burton as Antony are not to be missed. I notice alot of people are comparing this movie to Gladiator, which is good I think. Gladiator took the idea of the Roman epic and showed the primal brutality, the darkness behind all the marble and gold that was Rome. It is a step in the right direction, H'Wood should seriously consider going back to Republican times and show the world, brilliantly, and truthfully the fall of the Roman republic. This film is the closest to doing so and I applaud it. Mr. Speilberg, Mr. Scott, even Michael Mann, bring on Colleen Mccullough's books! There's a juicy script waiting to be adapted, I would love and so would many others to see Sulla come to the big screen, despite his ominous mention in Cleopatra: Harrison (Caesar): "Rome? What was Rome when Sulla died?" or in Spartacus: Olivier (Crassus): Sulla! To the infamy of his name, to the utter damnation of his line!" McCullough's Masters of Rome would be great to the big screen, what with the success of Gladiator. I would love to see Julius Caesar take the to the silver screen once more and be played not just brilliantly (like Harrison, dialogue, attitude and all) but physically (Caesar was a lean, trim powerful man, who did not cover his legs with trousers but flaunted every element of his masculinity and sexuality. He was a powerhouse, lets do him justice! enough about what hollywood should do, just enjoy this movie and consider it a step in the right direction to the perfection of the Roman epic (not yet done).
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