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CLEOPATRA 50TH ANNIVERSARY Blu-ray Review

Cleopatra (1963)
Approved....192 min.....Biography, Drama, History, Romance
DIRECTOR: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
WRITERS: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall, Sidney Buchman

cleopatra
© 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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Cleopatra 50th Anniversary
G....251 min.....Classic, Drama
RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2013

CAST
Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison,
Pamela Brown, George Cole, Hume Cronyn, Cesare Danova,
Kenneth Haigh, Andrew Keir, Martin Landau,
Roddy McDowall, Robert Stephens

DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Website....Facebook....@FoxHomeEnt....YouTube

Grade: ★★★☆☆
cleopatra

The opulence and grandeur of this epic spectacle has never been more glorious, as it comes to Blu-ray™ for the very first time. Elizabeth Taylor stars as Cleopatra, the glamorous and cunning queen of Egypt. To secure her hold on power, she seduces the rulers of Rome, only to meet her match in Mark Antony, played by Richard Burton. Their passionate romance could decide the fate of the world’s greatest empires.

If ever there were a woman with man-breaking Kryptonite in her hmm-hmm, it was Queen Cleopatra of Egypt—at least that’s what the 1963, Elizabeth Taylor classic Cleopatra would have us believe.

To this first-time viewer, Cleopatra seems to be more about the men she loves and breaks—a.k.a. Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and Mark Antony (Richard Burton)—than about Cleopatra herself. Indeed, the epic’s eponymous heroine doesn’t make her first appearance until 21 minutes in. The film follows Cleopatra’s men on their various quests, while showing her mostly as the woebegone woman waiting at home. And—with the exception of one or two moments that highlight her strategic aptitude and ruthlessness—Cleopatra’s intelligence, strength, and legendary talent with poisons are established via throwaway lines spoken by male characters. Tales of her sexual prowess, on the other hand, are frequently reiterated…and shown to the extent permitted by the time’s film content guidelines/ratings system.

Taylor’s Cleopatra is a ‘Lady Macbeth’-type: a woman ruled entirely by her feelings, with a proclivity for seeking personal power and pomp through the men she beds. Despite being at least as smart as the soft-spoken, almost always rational men who surround her, Cleopatra is consistently portrayed as inherently ’emotional.’ (Then again, I’d probably be ’emotional’ too if my life were a lather, rinse, and repeat of assassination attempts, hostile takeovers, sexual objectification, and abandonment….) If Cleopatra were made today, its heroine would likely be more akin to Snow White and the Hunstman’s Evil Queen (Charlize Theron)—a seductress who uses sex to usurp the life force and power from her poor, unsuspecting male victims—or the woman who tried to stab Armie Hammer during sex—a temptress who uses pleasure and pain to mark the bounds of her dominion over men. So let us pray in the names of Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian—whose histories earned each a writing credit—that such a remake never sees the light of day.

All that philosophical hoo-ha aside, the Cleopatra 50th Anniversary Blu-ray™ is a visually-stunning reminder of pre-CGI, cinematic splendor. 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. And having been dubbed in two additional languages (French and Spanish), with subtitles in more languages than the average liberal arts college teaches—Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish—the film’s narrative is now widely accessible.

Simply put, the Cleopatra 50th Anniversary Blu-ray™ is a must-own for fans and the ideal format—short of building/using a time machine—in which to introduce newcomers to this historic classic.

Cleopatra 50th Anniversary is now available on DVD and Blu-ray™
(in 2-Disc and Limited Edition 2-Disc + Book versions).

Blu-ray™ Special Features
Disc 1: Cleopatra (Part 1) in High Definition (Blu-ray)
**Commentary with Chris Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky
**Cleopatra Through The Ages: A Cultural History
**Cleopatra’s Missing Footage
**Fox Movie Channel presents Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman
**The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence

Disc 2: Cleopatra (Part 2) in High Definition (Blu-ray)
**Continued Film Commentary
**Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood
**The Fourth Star of Cleopatra
**Fox Movietone News: Archival Footage of the New York Premiere and Archival Footage of the Hollywood Premiere

Amazon....Best Buy....FoxConnect....iTunes....Target

Featured Image: © 1963 20th Century Fox

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The Author

Sarah Katz

Sarah Katz

Born-and-bred New Yorker. Lifelong film & TV lover—from chick flicks, rom-coms, rom-droms, rom-drams, and tweentertainment, to Shakespeare, period pieces, James Bond, fairy tales, and mafia movies.