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I Claudius/The Epic That Never Was
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Roman history comes alive in this magnificent 13-part series. I, Claudius ranks among the most acclaimed productions in television history. Tracing the lives of the last of the Roman emperors, it's an epic of ruthless ambition, shocking debauchery and murderous intrigue set in one of history's most fascinating eras. Bearing witness to the saga is Claudius, whose stutter and limp have marked him a fool--yet whom prophesies have foretold will one day rule Rome.
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.
A truly epic saga of dynastic conflict at the heart of Imperial Rome, I Claudius was the landmark BBC drama series of the 1970s. Originally transmitted as 13 50-minute episodes, it is now available as two double video packs. After chronicling the foundations of the British Empire in Elizabeth R (1971), the BBC chose to dramatise the human face of ancient Rome as interpreted by Robert Graves in his two enormously complex novels, I Claudius and Claudius The God. Derek Jacobi gives one of the greatest television performances ever as Claudius, the appalled chronicler of the decadence, corruption, intrigue and carnage which comes with absolute power of his ruling family. Augustus (Brian Blessed) is Emperor and Sian Phillips, Livia, his scheming, ambitious wife, Claudius' aunt. By virtue of his stammer and uncontrollable twitches, Claudius passes for a fool, thus escaping the poisonous machinations of Livia, all the while recording the comings and goings of the Imperial household. Inevitably lacking the visual scale of cinematic features Ben-Hur (1959) and Spartacus (1960), and today looking more studio-bound than ever, I Claudius remains a television masterpiece of intelligently written and rivetingly intense character drama. The saga ends with I Claudius - Part 2. --Gary S. Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I simply had to add a comment about picture quality, which one review complained was not as good as a copy of the original VHS tapes. I've seen the VHS tape version. This DVD release surely is no worse. The source material was perhaps softened a bit too much to lessen video noise on the original. In other words, the focus looks a bit soft. Other than that, there is nothing wrong with the picture quality.
I've seen other video material from this era transferred to DVD, and this is about the best that can be expected. We watched the entire series on DVD with no complaints. I was very happy. You will be too, as you are drawn into this story, brought alive with consummate skill and passion.
Clocking in at eleven hours, "I, Claudius" rips the curtain back from Imperial Rome and shows the savagery, the venality, the evil, and yes, the goodness at work in the court during the early days of Imperial Rome. Tracking a story over several decades, "I, Claudius" tells an epic story of murder, deceit, seduction, and justice that is simultaneously grand and intimate -- the story is simply too grand a scale to be made into a feature film (well, with the caveat that if Peter Jackson can film the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, he can film any epic out there).
Narrated by an aged Emperor Claudius (Derek Jacobi, in a career-making performance), "I, Claudius" starts with the reign of Caesar Augustus (Brian Blessed, delightfully Machiavellian) and his vicious wife, Livia (Sian Phillips, almost stealing the show). Augustus, reluctant to drive a stake through the heart of the Roman Republic, nevertheless seeks to consolidate his power; Livia is fully committed to burying the Republic forever and seating her reluctant son, Tiberius (George Baker) on the throne. Through seduction, wily craft, and generous doses of poison, Livia gets her way. Her parting scene with Augustus is a masterpiece of acting on both sides.
As an aside, the acting in "I, Claudius" more than makes up for an obviously limited budget and virtually no special effects . . . it's like watching a televised play. On-screen violence is nevertheless convincing, and the entire cast hits each precious note with skill. Watch for a young, bewigged(!Read more ›
This is one of Jacobi's best performances EVER.
Only thing I'd say against it: it was filmed in the 70's so it's a bit dated. However,
I did buy this edition and the remastering is kick butt compared to the previous DVD set, I had
It's a who's-who of British stars. Sian Phillips is another absolute treasure in this series!
And yes, Patrick Stewart is great. It's wild to see him with hair.
Give it a try. I can't say enough. This series is be under "Awesome" in the dictionary.
What I didn't expect was that image-entertainment/CBS would (apparently) cut the DVD from a bad second(+) generation video tape - rather than the presumably superior BBC master.
The sound is muffled and the picture has noticeable ghosting. There are no sub-titles so the DVD has to be viewed with the sound on full blast. To be fair to IE/CBS this was true when I watched the series on BBC TV on its first broadcast.
Given the (unfortunately) limited market for quality drama in the US I wouldn't expect the full George Lucas treatment. However, why could not IE/CBS (a) get hold of a better master; (b) spend a little money on cleaning up the soundtrack/image; (c) provide sub-titles?
Buy it anyway because you'll forget the technical limitations within minutes as you become totally absorbed in this wonderful drama.
I note that "The 6 Wives of Henry VIII" (which I intend to purchase) is distributed by "BFS". I hope they've done a better job than IE/CBS and that they will be releasing "Elizabeth R" when the time comes.
Amazon should have separate content/technical ratings for DVDs.
Most recent customer reviews
It was nice to see this series again. Acting was if it was in live theatre , fully enjoyed.Published 25 days ago by Digdug
Excellent series from a while back. Interesting story. The presentation is more like watching a live theatrical performance and might not appeal to today's audiences who seem to... Read morePublished 4 months ago by David Martin
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