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Back in the 1930s, a reporter named Wallace Irwin wrote a hard-boiled
mystery novel spoof called THE JULIUS CAESAR MURDER CASE, in which
Caesar and his cronies behaved and talked like cut-throat
gangsters...which, when you think about it, they were. I kept thinking
of Irwin's novel as I watched this black-and-white low-budget oddity
from 1950, which was filmed in Chicago at various sites that double
quite well for ancient Rome. The look is ancient, but the actor's
accents could be straight out of an old James Cagney or Edward
G.Robinson gangster movie. With that in mind, this movie provides yet
another interesting take on one of the best plays ever written:
Shakespeare's Caesar is the first and greatest Godfather of them all.
This movie marks the first of many appearances in loincloth by Charlton Heston (aged 25), who reprised the role of Antony in the 1970s all-star version, and again played Antony in his own movie adaptation of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. The role fits him like a glove.
There's also a small appearance by Jeffrey Hunter, who speaks a few lines and has some close-ups as a plebeian in the crowd reacting to the speeches by Brutus and Antony.
All in all, a worthwhile curiosity for anyone interested in pioneering independent film, Shakespeare movies, or the career of Charlton Heston.
I couldn't make it through this butchered version of the play. Films of
Shakespeare's plays are bound to have cuts but the cuts here have been
done poorly, leading to a choppy version.
The cinematography is at some times interesting (as Brutus makes his funeral oration, we get a close-up of his bloody hands) and sometimes bizarre (as he does part of the oration, the camera shoots him upwards). There are a ridiculous amount of close-ups, probably to make the most of Cassius' creepy face.
David Bardley as Brutus is just bland. He's more like a Roderigo from Othello than a noble Roman. Completely ordinary and uncharismatic.
Charlton Heston probably fares best, although all his dignity goes out the window at the start, where he has to walk about in a baggy thong looking like Caesar's rent boy. He makes the funeral speech a little too ironic. Antony may be cleverer than he appears but he's not a total meanie.
All in all, don't bother watching this Caesar.
The 24 year old Jeffrey Hunter made his screen debut in this film adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'. Despite the fact that Charlton Heston is in it, I don't think that there is much that you can bring to the story on the screen. I think focusing on Cleopatra and her relationship with both Caesar and Mark Antony is far more interesting.
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