In 1963, this colossal and opulent $60 million spectacular was epic in every sense of the word -- an epic investment, an epic in the annals of Hollywood gossip, and, ultimately, an epic flop that nearly dragged 20th Century Fox down the Nile along with Cleopatra's barge. Handsomely mounted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who replaced Rouben Mamoulian as ...
In 1963, this colossal and opulent $60 million spectacular was epic in every sense of the word -- an epic investment, an epic in the annals of Hollywood gossip, and, ultimately, an epic flop that nearly dragged 20th Century Fox down the Nile along with Cleopatra's barge. Handsomely mounted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who replaced Rouben Mamoulian as director after six days of shooting), the drama follows the eighteen tumultuous years that led to the founding of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) meets up with Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and plans to lure Caesar to her boudoir in order to forge an alliance with Rome so that she may hold on to her Egyptian empire. When Caesar is stabbed to death in the Roman Senate, Cleopatra is left without an ally, and Egypt is up for grabs. When Roman general Mark Antony (Richard Burton) comes along, she seduces him in order to make him over into her new protector. But, under the charms of Cleopatra, Mark Antony is reduced from a an awesome and dominating general to a sniveling, drunken wimp. At the Battle of Actium, Mark Antony is defeated and Cleopatra withdraws her troops, dooming Mark Antony and his army. With Egypt in peril, Antony and Cleopatra, the doomed lovers, meet each other for the last time, as the enemy forces close in. Paul Brenner, Rovi
GENRE: Epic Historical Re-enactment
CAST: Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton, Roddy Macdowell, Martin Landau, Pamela Brown, Carroll O'Connor and Hume Cronyn
STORY: At the height of his power, an heirless Julius Caesar must deflate a dispute, a quarrel for power, between the two co-pharoahs of Egypt. He decides in favor of the female, Cleopatra. She bears him a son. Caesar is assinnated. Mark Antony steps in to fill the void and that doesn't quite work out so well.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT: 9 of 10; This was at the time, and remains as, one of the most expensive films ever to be made. And we never even see almost half the budget that was spent to build and costume a failed start in England (To be Egypt? the weather and plant material killed that idea) But the money doesn't matter when you have reputedly the most beautiful woman in the world as the lead part. The dialogue is spoken before the most exquisite and lavish sets created (the second try really worked). What is a drawback is that even with so many battle scenes, there are no chariots in evidence (budget restraints?)
DVD BONUS: Overdubbed commentary by the sons of Director Jiseph Mankiewicz and Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky.
ADDED NOTES: Egypt may have loved Cleopatra. This movie will make you love Elizabeth Taylor