The growing ambition of Julius Caesar is a source of major concern to his close friend Brutus. Cassius persuades him to participate in his plot to assassinate Caesar but they have both sorely underestimated Mark Antony.
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Brutus, Cassius, and other high-ranking Romans murder Caesar, because they believe his ambition will lead to tyranny. The people of Rome are on their side until Antony, Caesar's right-hand man, makes a moving speech. The conspirators are driven from Rome, and two armies are formed: one side following the conspirators; the other, Antony. Antony has the superior force, and surrounds Brutus and Cassius, but they kill themselves to avoid capture. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
The featurette on the DVD, "The Rise of Two Legends", is presented in anamorphic widescreen format (16:9), while the film itself is presented in its original standard "Academy format". See more »
Marc Antony's left hand changes between shots when people from the crowd ask him to read Caesar's testament. See more »
Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home:/ Is this a holiday? what! know you not,/ Being mechanical, you ought not walk/ Upon a labouring day without the sign/ Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?
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1953's JULIUS CAESAR was a milestone in it's time, and still is, perhaps, the finest American production of a Shakespeare play ever recorded on film. Until Joseph L. Mankiewicz's production, only Laurence Olivier's British versions of HAMLET and HENRY V had truly displayed the power and poetry of the Bard's work. Hollywood seemed content to either truncate it in miscast all-star extravaganzas (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and ROMEO AND JULIET) or turn it into a weird kind of carnival sideshow (Orson Welles' MACBETH, performed with incomprehensible Scottish accents). Perhaps American film makers were afraid audiences would be put off by Shakespeare's text, with its archaic words, or felt that a British cast and the confines of a stage were 'required' to do a 'proper' rendition. For whatever reason, the British seemed to have a 'lock' on filmed versions of the Bard.
But Mankiewicz understood that Shakespeare was both universal and timeless, and in his capacity of director and (uncredited) screenwriter, he 'opened up' JULIUS CAESAR, eliminating the 'studio' feel of key scenes, and, with producer John Houseman, gathered together an impressive array of talent, with British actors John Gielgud as Cassius, James Mason as Brutus, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia, and stage-trained American actors such as Oscar winner Edmond O'Brien in supporting roles.
Where the greatest gamble, and payoff, came was in the casting of Marlon Brando as Marc Antony. While Brando was already being hailed as the finest American actor of his generation, there were critics, prior to the film's release, who called his acceptance of the role an ego trip, and expected him to fall on his face. Were they ever WRONG! Brando gave the role a power, a physicality, and charisma that stunned critics and audiences alike. With a flawless British accent, he easily held his own with the veteran cast, and displayed a magnetism that is still enthralling, over 50 years later. His performance became the keystone of the film's success.
Not that JULIUS CAESAR is without faults; it is, occasionally, stagy and artificial, the pacing is a bit too slow and deliberate at times, and, as the title character, Louis Calhern is woefully miscast (he looks and sounds more like a jaded grandfather than the charismatic despot who both enthralled and frightened the Roman world). Still, the film is so strong and dynamic that subsequent versions (such as Charlton Heston's ambitious 1970 production) pale in comparison.
Hollywood finally got it 'right', and we can be grateful that a truly unforgettable presentation of JULIUS CAESAR is available for us, and future generations, to enjoy!
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