Cleopatra DVD Product Description
Still the most expensive movie ever made, Cleopatra nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. It also scandalised the world with the very public affair of its two major stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. But Joseph L Mankiewicz's 1963 epic deserves to be remembered for more than its off-screen troubles. An extravagantly elaborate production, the sets and costumes alone are awe-inspiring; Mankiewicz's own literate screenplay draws heavily on the classics and Shakespeare; while the supporting cast, led by Rex Harrison as Caesar and Roddy McDowall as his nephew (and future emperor) Octavian, are all first-rate thespians and generally put in more convincing performances than either of the two leads.
Mankiewicz's original intention was to make two three-hour films: the first being Caesar and Cleopatra, the second Antony and Cleopatra. But before the film’s completion, and following a boardroom coup worthy of Ancient Rome itself, legendary mogul Darryl F Zanuck took back control of Fox and insisted that Cleopatra be cut to a more economical length. A heartbroken Mankiewicz was forced to trim his six-hour vision down to four. This was the "roadshow" version shown at the film’s premiere and now restored here. Then following adverse criticism and pressure from cinema chains Zanuck demanded more cuts, and the final released version ran a mere three hours--half the original length.
Capitalising on the feverish publicity surrounding Burton and Taylor, the shortened version played up both their on- and off-screen romance. This longer four-hour roadshow version allows for a broader view of the film, adding some depth to the politics and manipulation of the characters. But the director’s original six-hour edit has been lost. Perhaps one day it will be rediscovered in the vaults and Mankiewicz’s much-maligned movie will finally be seen the way it was meant to be. Until then, Cleopatra remains an epic curiosity rather than the complete spectacle it should be.
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