Cleopatra (1963) Poster

(1963)

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8/10
For the splendid role of history's ultimate femme fatale… the highest fee ever paid an actress up to then…
Nazi_Fighter_David15 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Mankiewicz shaped the characterization to suit Liz Taylor's role... The movie follows her from the father-daughter romance with Caesar to the tempestuous man-woman contretemps with Marc Antony…

As the cunning, nubile daughter to Caesar's wise father, Liz is quite pleasing... She's expected to do much more acting as the womanly, passion-driven Queen, but she's more in control of the character when she's playing Caesar's pupil rather than Marc Anthony's teacher... Her high comedy exchanges with Harrison have quiet authority; her doomed romance with Burton never ignites…

The brilliant script by Mankiewicz covers the eighteen years leading up to the formation of the Roman Empire, starting with Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) meeting Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) in Egypt, when he arrives as conqueror, and ending with her suicide when defeated by Rome and when her Roman general and lover Mark Anthony (Richard Burton) also ends his life…

The visual content of the film is stunning, especially Cleopatra's entry into Rome, carried on a vast throne-platform and bringing with her the son sired into Tarsus, and the vast battle of Actium…

The sets and costumes are among the finest ever created for the screen, but it is the literacy of Mankiewicz's script and the strength of his direction that give Cleopatra distinctions of great importance…
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An amazing film
hamlet-1627 November 2001
Cleopatra is a film of myths.

A massively troubled production combined with the extraordinary love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made for plenty of hype.

But what really matters nearly 40 years on is the film itself.

At this distance it is possible to see the film for what it is. A grand example of the final flowering of Hollywood.

In 1963 it seemed old fashioned compared to the excitement of European cinema and what the critics perceived as new (many of their favourite films of that era now just seem dated and pretentious).

But Cleopatra grows in stature with time.

It is far from flawless. And certainly the second half is somehow not right. Whether the missing two hours will reclaim this part of the film is yet to be seen.

But compared with Gladiator or similar modern epics, Cleopatra is a brilliant film with an intelligent script, stunning design, masterly and beautiful cinematography in 70mm (which sure beats 35mm and does justice to the intricate sets and design), an evocative and effective musical score and superb costumes and makeup.

The big three, Taylor, Burton and Harrison are extremely good and in the case of Harrison, who has many of the best lines, brilliant.

The supporting cast and especially Roddy McDowall are equally excellent.

Cleopatra may not be a masterpiece but it is a superbly crafted and beautiful film.

If it fails, it fails because of our expectations.

Sit back, put your feet up and luxuriate in a quality of film-making that you simply don't see today! .... but I have always wondered what Miss Taylor thinks of this extraordinary film?
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7/10
Mutilated potential classic
Jeff Stone (straker-1)13 December 2005
Fritz Lang's Metropolis is rightly regarded as a classic, but many reviews make note of the 'illogical' story and bad character plotting. Characters come and go without rhyme or reason, and the plot makes no sense, they say. Well, yes, but that's not Fritiz's fault, nor the movie's; Metropolis makes little sense because 55 minutes of the film was hacked out and destroyed, never to be seen again, by the US distributors. Of course it's gonna be a dog's dinner with an hour missing, ya clods!!

The same is true of Cleopatra, and this is basically the only reason the film fell flat on its' 1963 release. It was originally intended to release Cleopatra as two three hour movies, the first dealing with Cleo's relationship with Caesar, the second her affairs with Marc Antony. Fox said no to this idea, and demanded a single four hour film instead. This decision is like taking Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and removing an hour from each film wherever an hours' worth can be removed...a recipe for incoherence and total disaster.

So, with two hours of footage gone, major characters are reduced to glorified walk-ons, vital plot points and motivations are lost, and the story loses what LOTR has...length with the proper pacing. People will sit and watch 4 hours of Return Of The King because it flows properly. People will not sit and watch 4 hours of stitched together rough cuts...that's what Cleopatra is, even in the DVD roadshow edition...because what we have is something that is too bitty and haphzard to sustain interest.

But there is still glory in Cleo....Roddy McDowall, Martin Landau and Rex Harrison all act their socks off, the sea battle is kick ass, and Liz Taylor looks pretty scrummy in Egyptian softcore porn clothes. And only a Gen Xer like me could love that hideously pompous overblown dialogue.

Great film! For what it is. It just should have been TWO films, that's all. Real eyepopping trippy spectacle, done in a 'damn the money, full speed ahead' way that just doesn't happen any more. Like Casino Royale, Cleo is a wonderful disaster.
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7/10
A Film Of Two Halves
no-skyline2 November 2005
First of please note this is a review of the recent restored DVD version of the film not the savagely cut older version of the film.

Having watched the documentary on this film it seems amazing this film was ever completed how the director managed to get anything even vaguely coherent to the screen is a minor miracle in itself. Cleopatra is a luscious period epic and it's clear no expense was spared on either scenery or costumes, gorgeous to look at but somehow unsatisfying at the end. The movie seems to lose it's way half way through as Rex Harrison departs so for me does the quality of this movie.

It's difficult to tell whether this is due to over the top performances from Taylor and Burton or the forced cuts to reduce the running time. Roddy McDowell is the highlight of the 2nd half of the film and i'm sure Joaquin Phoenix must have researched his role for Gladiator here, McDowell's Octavian is chilling in the extreme. But the rest of the 2nd half of the movie descends into melodrama, where the 1st gave us the excellent Harrison restrained and regal as Ceaser the 2nd gives us real life lovers Burton and Taylor locked in an over-acted doomed romance. But throughout the film there are supporting actors giving first class performances that without the cuts would be interesting to see Martin Landau, Andrew Keir, Hume Cronyn and George Cole all have their moments it's just a shame there aren't more of them.

If I could split my vote over the two halves of the movie the first half would get 9/10 the 2nd 6/10 as I can't I'm going with a 7/10 overall.
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One of the best love stories of all filmdom!
durnik1510 June 2002
Once again I have watched the complete Cleopatra (or at least the complete Cleopatra available). In addition, because I watched the DVD version of the movie, I also was able to view the outstanding documentary "Cleopatra: The Film that Changed Hollywood". And, once again, I am all but overwhelmed by the movie. Elizabeth Taylor may very well be one of the most under-rated actresses of the last fifty years; her public private life has always overshadowed her acting ability. But it is not her notoriety that puts her in the same league with other two time Oscar winners like Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Tom Hanks, etc. In Cleopatra, as in George Stevens' Giant, she runs the gamut from adolescent to matriarch, from calculating queen to devastated lover, and rings every bell in between. But her performance alone does not make the movie. Not only is she supported by Burton, in one of his best screen performances, and Rex Harrison, in one of his best, Taylor's old friend Roddy McDowall gives the performace of his lifetime (how sad that a clerical error cost him his Oscar); we see a young Martin Landau, a young Carroll O'Connor, a young Jean Marsh, give performances worthy of anything they've ever put on screen since. The documentary points out that the original Mankiewicz cut of the film was 6 1/2 hours long and that Fox is currently trying to reassemble the film as originally cut. If they ever succeed in doing so, I would stand in line to see it in theatres and buy it on DVD the first chance I got. As a history freak, it more than satisfies; as a fan of brilliant acting, it wows! Everyone should see it at least once!
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A Cleopatra Comeback?
mspedant20 June 2001
I'm pleased to read all the positive reviews of this film, which I first saw when it was released and have seen perhaps five times since. In 1963 the movie was almost universally condemned by critics, and I was just about the only person who admitted that I loved it. Part of that, though, had to do with the Taylor/Burton affair and the scandal it created. Liz Taylor in 1963 was not only considered the most beautiful woman in America, she was also thought of as a serial home-breaker and a real threat to the morals of the American Republic.

Why? I don't agree with many positive comments about the acting. Taylor and Burton were not too bad, but they didn't handle the pompous dialogue as well as Rex Harrison, Hume Cromyn, Martin Landau and especially Roddy McDowell, who was perfection itself and, I believe, accurately portrayed as the very young, ambitious and unscrupulous, but brilliantly intelligent Octavian (later the emperor Augustus).

Sure, some of the dialogue stinks, and the movie seems too long (perhaps because so much of it was cut to fit into fours hours). Nevertheless, for sheer magnificence and recreation of a most critical time in the history of two vanished high civilizations it has never been, and probably never will be, surpassed.
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10/10
A tragedy,not a soap opera.
dbdumonteil4 August 2001
I have always thought it was one of the most underrated Hollywood epics.First of all,it's only partially an epic:most of the scenes are intimate,generally two characters who are constantly tearing each other apart.Joseph L. Mankiewicz,one of the most intelligent director of his time,rewrote the dialogue during the shooting,night after night ,and the results are stunning,considering the difficulties he encountered with his budget and his stars.Cleopatra's dream is perfectly recreated,much better than in De Mille 's version -a good one,though-:It's Alexandre the great 's plan ,this Alexandre from whom she's descended,to make a huge empire,uniting the Orient and the Occident.One of the major scenes takes place near the great conqueror's grave .The second part has Shakespeareans accents:Cleopatra becomes some kind of Lady Macbeth,and Marc Anthony is left alone against the whole Roman army (the Shakespearian trees).The last lines (repeated twice) are some of the finest you can find in an epic movie.And look how Fellini has been influenced by Mankiewicz for the final of his "Satyricon":the photograph turning into a fresco. As for the epic scenes,they are here,of course but they are little over 20% of the movie.And to Cleo's awesome Rome entrance ,you can prefer Ceasar's epilepsy fit.The actors are not as uneven as it's often said.Elizabeth Taylor had already worked with Mankiewicz (the extraordinary "suddenly last Summer") and she learned a lot with him;she's now ready for the great roles of the sixties:"Virginia Woolf","Secret ceremony" "taming of the shrew".Richard Burton had been "Alexander the great" (coincidence!) in a rather academic movie,and here he portrays a clumsy,almost Don Quixotesque Marc Anthony with art.However,Rex Harrison steals the show in the first half.Supporting actors ,including Roddy MCDowall ,a puny but shrewd Octavious,and Richard O'Sullivan ,an effeminate Ptolemy. This visual poem,a feast for the eye and for the mind must be restored to favor.
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7/10
Difficult to evaluate
perfectbond22 January 2004
It is extremely difficult to evaluate this film. On the one hand, the presentation is first class: the sets, props, costumes, location photography, and music are all of the caliber befitting the grandiose ambition of the production. I personally found the acting by the truly all-star cast to be uniformly excellent throughout with McDowall's Octavian and Harrison's Caesar deserving special mention. Taylor deserved the million dollars she got for the title role and Burton's occasional scenery chewing didn't detract significantly from his interpretation of Mark Antony. But the question remains over what might have been. I believe any true film buff would want to pass final judgment on this production only after having viewed the 6 hour plus version in order to determine whether the extensive cuts (even in the new 2 DVD four hour version) were justified. I should add that the third disc of extras contributes greatly to the appreciation (especially where the director controversy and Burton-Taylor relationship is concerned) of what was attempted.
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8/10
Too much negativity, not enough praise!
gerry-russell-1395 April 2001
Regarded as the biggest flop (at least until "Ishtar") in motion picture history, "Cleopatra" has been given the short end of the stick since it first premiered in 1963 but it still is a great film. True, it did plague 20th Century Fox to the point of near bankruptcy (until "The Sound of Music" saved it in 1965) and Elizabeth Taylor's health overshadowed the film schedule but there are more good things about the film than there are bad, the backlashing of the film has just blown itself all out of proportion. Richard Burton and Elizabeth's much-publicized offscreen love affair grew to such a feverishly fiery degree that it made their onscreen relationship as Antony and Cleopatra all the more genuine. Rex Harrison as Caesar is first-rate as well and yet he was the only one out of the entire cast that received an Oscar nomination (Richard Burton was one who should have been in the running as well... his performance is equal to his earlier work in "The Robe" and later in "Becket" and "Anne of the Thousand Days"). Miss Taylor is very commanding in the role of her career and as a result few remember Claudette Colbert's earlier turn as Egypt's most memorable ruler in Cecil B. De Mille's 1934 version. The one point I want to make is that the film should have gotten more praise than it did... like "The Wizard of Oz", "Fantasia" and "It's a Wonderful Life" it seems to get more appreciation by it's second generation than it did it's first.
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10/10
The Return Of The Queen
MGMboy31 March 2003
That a film as good as CLEOPATRA is was created at all under the madness and panic of it's legendary production is indeed an amazing feat. That CLEOPATRA has been given such loving care in its restoration in this DVD of the "Road Show" print and the attendant bonus materials is a wondrous gift to those who love this film. The documentary, "Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood" is in on it's own an engrossing and informative two hour movie. For anyone who knows little of the history of CLEOPATRA, or who was not around at the time, this documentary will give them the feeling of what those last days of old Hollywood was like. And therein one can find the reasons why this intimate epic is indeed the wonder that it is. Many thanks should go to the Mankiewicz family and the producers of the documentary. The print and the sound of CLEOPATRA seems now to surpass what I recall it to be in its first presentation nearly forty years ago. The depth of the colors and the richness of the shadows are indeed splendid. In this restoration, it is hard to believe this film is as old as it is. The commentary track is in and of itself like finding the lost treasures of the long dead monarch. For there are wonderful recollections by Martin Landau, Tom and Chris Mankiewicz, and even the one of the films publicists Jack Brodsky gets to read sections from his book "The Cleopatra Papers" which gave a blow by blow description of everyday events on the set. But I must give special mention to Landau's part. With his keen eye for the art direction of John DeCuir one sees things in the background and along the edges of the scene that one never noticed before. Such lovingly detailed sets and interiors will never be seen again. The costs today are just too prohibitive. Also his insights into what was cut from the film, particularly his and Richard Burton's contributions in the second act give one the idea of what Mankiewicz was intending. Poor Richard suffered the unkindest cut of all. The presentation of the DVD menus is so clever and exotic. The creators of this DVD are to be commended in their art direction. At last we now know what is behind the massive 20th Century Fox logo!

The film itself remains what it has always been. It is a good film that might have been a great one if only Zanuck had trusted Joe Mankiewicz' original vision. It is said that they are still looking for the missing film; one can only hope that they succeed in this task. The performances range from good to excellent. Particular praise must go to Rex Harrison, Richard Burton, Martin Landau, Robert Stephens, Andrew Keir, and Roddy McDowall. Lastly in this department there remains Elizabeth Taylor's performance as Cleopatra. At the films release the brickbats were reserved for her and for reasons that had nothing to do with her performance. Many reviewed her behavior as seen through the narrow focus of the tabloids and emerging paparazzi. Even today it is sometimes hard to separate the history of the lady from her film roles. But here is the moment in time, in this film where she became the ELIZABETH TAYLOR she has remained in the mind of the world ever since. In this fact alone she is perfect in the role. But she is more than that. As Cleopatra she is at once regal and commanding, strong and tender, soft and hard. These are all the contradictions that have always been at the heart of Cleopatra herself. She and the Queen are masters of a public enigma wrapped within a mystery. In her performance as written by Mankiewicz Elizabeth Taylor is probably not too far off from the historical Cleopatra. Finally, ever since Judith Crist gave CLEOPATRA the needle in 1963 and in the act made her name, the public, for the most part, has viewed this film a failure. But today, stripped of the scandal, hype and hysteria of its release in June of 1963 it is now possible to view CLEOPARTA as the film it is. A near great film that is the signpost of when Hollywood passed from one age into another. Historically this is an important DVD and I recommend it highly. CLEOPATRA remains as seductive, beautiful, and intelligent as it was in Walter Wanger's original conception. "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety."
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9/10
A Story That Always Fascinates - No Matter How Many Versions We See Of It.
theowinthrop29 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The tale of the last great ruler of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra, has been the subject of many films. Theda Bara played her in 1917. That version (if it still exists) is rarely seen - and if it were the broad gestures of early silent movies would probably strike us as funny. Nearly twenty years later, in 1934, Claudette Colbert did a wonderful job as the Queen of the Nile under the guidance of Cecil B. DeMille. In 1946 England produced CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA with Claude Rains sharing acting honors with Vivien Leigh, to dialog by Bernard Shaw. Finally came this 1963 version - which is different from most of the others (the 1946 is the closest to it for a different reason).

The 1963 version with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Rex Harrison is remembered for the beginning of the Taylor - Burton relationship which destroyed their respective marriages, and got more news coverage than any items of that period except for the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy. The film is also remembered for being (up to that time) the most expensive "flop" film of American movie history. It cost (in 1963 money) twenty five million dollars, which was nearly twenty two million over original budget. Which is why the 1946 version is also so similar - it was the most expensive film of the British cinema up to that time, and it too was a box office flop.

The film was a mess - it was started without decent control of budget and cast from 20th Century Fox's leadership. The original filming was in England under Rouben Mamoulian, but he got no where with his stars (they included Peter Finch as Caesar and Stephen Boyd as Anthony). He was replaced by Joseph Mankiewicz, at the demand of Taylor (who had worked well with him on SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER). Mankiewicz tried to give coherence to the script - and eventually created a plan for a six hour, two part movie first about Cleopatra and her romance with Gaius Julius Caesar, and then her relationship with Marc Anthony. Mankiewicz apparently shot that much (or almost that much) but the leadership at 20th Century Fox was changed, and Darryl Zanuck returned to command. Zanuck insisted on a single long film - the four hour version that most of us have seen.

Despite the cuts, the remaining film is quite a worthy one. It is attacked as pompous because the dialog is more formal than ours - it is based on Plutarch, Suetonius, and other ancient Latin and Greek historians, as well as Shakespeare (and a little of Shaw). But the basic story of the princess who fought her way to the oldest throne in the ancient world, and twice came close to being the lover/wife of the most powerful man in the Roman Empire. The supporting cast is fine, including Hume Cronym as an Egyptian adviser to Taylor, and (possibly the best performance) Roddy MacDowell as Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) who is a compound of brains, suspicions, and respect for his foes. Look at the end when he berates a soldier for dismissing Anthony as a drunken failure, reminding the soldier that he was one of Rome's greatest soldiers.

Mankiewicz may lack De Mille's gift for special effects (only eight years after THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) but there were no miracles in the tale of Cleopatra - she used her wiles, her intelligence, her looks to beguile to powerful men, who also saw her as a key to their own ambitions. So there was no "parting of the Red Sea" here. But there is a fine production of the naval battle at Actium to really climax the second part of the story.

For all the expense, the ego clashes, and the pompous language, CLEOPATRA remains a good epic film retelling of a remarkable ancient figure and her world. It's nice to note that after twenty years, it finally made a small profit from television rentals, foreign distribution, and later videos and DVDs.
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10/10
It has it all
John W Wirtanen2 November 2002
Breathtaking photography, fabulous costumes, wonderful lead and supporting role performances, a dual love story that is timeless - the romance with Caesar for power and the romance with Marc Antony for love, unmatched music by Alex North, that's what's in Cleopatra. From the time that it came out, I have remained a person who has not been afraid to say that I have loved it.

Elizabeth Taylor's legendary beauty is very evident here. My favorite scenes of hers are Cleopatra's anguish upon finding out about Marc Antony's [Richard Burton] marriage and the closing scene with her reunited with the dying Marc Antony. Similarly, Caesar's [Rex Harrison] opening war scene, Marc Antony's gut-wrenching soliloquy as a broken man after the defeat at Actium , Octavian's [Roddy McDowall] harsh scolding of an officer that let him know of Marc Antony's death, Sosigenes' [Hume Cronyn] death scene, Apollodorus' [Cesare Danova] support for Cleopatra, and Rufio's [Martin Landau] support for Marc Antony are all permanently etched in my memory.

The shear lushness of the production has to be seen to truly believed. Remember, this was released in 1963 far before the gimmickry of computer enhanced effects. The crowds in these scenes are real, the buildings are real, this is not a movie that was put together with the smoke and mirrors of computers. I truly do hope that restorers are able to eventually find the footage that was deleted, primarily due to Zanuck's influence and not Mankiewicz's desire, so that we may see more of what Mankiewicz had in mind.

I also strongly recommend that one view the DVD release. The included documentary about putting the film together helps one get a good perspective about the real headaches involved in getting this film made.
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9/10
Cleopatra
Joseph L. Mankiewicz laughed the last. His goal –a diptych to be released separately, rich in Shakespearean's tragic force, ample in scope, but intimate in tone- was betrayed by 20th Century Fox's chairman Darryl F. Zanuck, who butchered it into a four-hour film. In spite of all the troubles surrounding its production, "Cleopatra" defined big cinematic spectacle for me: I was 12 years old and saw it on a Cinerama screen. It was huge, and it was grandiose. Elizabeth Taylor carried the movie on her back, but she had not developed into a full dramatic actress yet; and Leon Shamroy's Oscar-winning cinematography ranged from dramatic lighting to flourishes of color that resemble the light show of a cabaret in La Habana. But the story was compelling, and everybody gave their best. It also became the entrepreneurial model for pre-selling movies before the cameras rolled. It did not have very good reviews, and 1960's yellow press, which had nothing to do with Mankiewicz's reflection of power and love, tarnished its values. By the 1980s a tendency to reevaluate the movie had grown, and moreover it became an icon of the big historical Hollywood spectacle. Not a masterpiece by scholars' standards, it is nevertheless the big opus in the career of Mankiewicz, maker of "All About Eve."
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10/10
Wonderful and breathtaking picture
true_to_your_heart17 March 2006
Lets face it; this film, starring Elizabeth Taylor, has become as much of a legend as Cleopatra herself! My recommendation is that you buy the 3 disc remastered collectors set--then you can see it in all of its intended glory. Spactacular acting, costumes, scenery, make-up and effects make this a must see movie for everyone. And also, it was not a 'flop' as some people have mentioned; its one of the highest grossing movies of all time, but its just that its huge budget eclipsed this. And who can fail not to be enthralled by the real life love story that was taking place at the time with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton? It has to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, love story of the 20th century! And you can see it all take place right here in this movie. Watch this movie, as you will love it.
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10/10
Just one of so many noble movies
spk0725 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is the movie that got me hooked on historical epics from the fifties and sixties. I do not know where to start. First I'll mention the spectacular sets particularly of Rome and Alexandria. This was before CGI! The costumes were also finely detailed. Now I will mention the great cast. Every actor gives their role so much emotional value that you think that a whole separate movie should be made for their character. My favorite characters were obviously Julius Caesar (#1) and Marc Antony (#2). Rex Harrison gave Caesar such a imposingly powerful presence yet at the same time touchingly vulnerable value that I was saddened to see him killed at the end of the first half. He lived up to Caesar's rep and more. Richard Burton was a different kind of lover for Cleopatra: more tormented and at times insecure about his ability to live up to his fame. His abandonment of the Battle of Actium was particularly shocking. My two favorite Burton scenes were his rant to Cleopatra on her barge about being in Caesar's shadow and his soliloquy about his post-desertion guilt. Elizabeth Taylor was very emotional and intelligent in the title role. She can be commanding when she needs to be and vulnerable when it is safe to do so and at times both. She evolved Cleopatra from the young queen dropped at Caesar's feet from a carpet to the defeated monarch who lost her son, her second love, her kingdom but never her dignity. The ending was powerful and "befitting the last of son many noble rulers". The dual romances were great because they took their time without dominating the film. You believed that she really cared about and loved both these men. Alex North's score is unforgettable and deeply emotional. The script is intelligent, witty, literate, and strangely poetic. My one scruple is that the producers cut the original film by TWO HOURS! That is desecration right there. I hope they find that missing footage because I would definitely like to see more character development even though this film had its fair share. Still, this is a haunting, romantic, and eye-filling spectacle that remains high on my list
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10/10
Cleopatra - 1963
faizahalam17 October 2006
Cleopatra was one of the best movies I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. I was 10 years old when I saw it and have never forgotten the excitement I felt when I saw the show. I was very young and have never forgotten the elegance and the beauty of the costumes, the scenes, and Cleopatra. While I was too young to really know what it was all about, it left a lasting impression on me and furthered my interest in Ancient Egypt and the Middle East. The splendor of costuming affected my taste in literature, fashion, music, and art. I tease my family members and tell them that I am a reincarnation of Cleopatra complete with henna for hair, surma for eyes, etc. I bought the movie on VHS and plan to purchase it on DVD. This particular movie will be left to my heirs.
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10/10
Cinematic gold!
Caledonia Twin #15 September 2000
This film is worth watching for the excellent cast of talented actors alone, but Richard Burton truly shines as Mark Antony. Richard Burton was in 1963 what Anthony Hopkins is to the cinema today, a remarkably talented actor with a resonant voice and a larger than life presence, strong enough to entirely captivate an audience. Antony's struggle to break free of the shadow of almighty Caesar and his struggle against the beguiling wiles of Cleopatra are fascinating to watch. The always brilliant Rex Harrison seems, however, a bit peevish for Caesar. Nevertheless, this movie is a masterpiece of cinematography and the chemistry between Burton and Taylor is riveting. Roddy McDowell is well-cast as the bookish Octavian. The spectacle of Cleopatra is only matched by such films as the recent Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Ben-hur, and Kubrick's Spartacus. It's well worth viewing this piece of cinematic history.
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8/10
Much better than its reputation
miw-320 March 2002
I watched this movie over 3 nights on DVD, and was captivated through the whole 4 hours and 10 minutes or so it took.

Elizabeth Taylor did a pretty good job in the title role as perhaps the greatest seductress in history, and Richard Burton was superb as Antony, but for my money Rex Harrison (Julius Caeser) and Roddy McDowall (Octavian) stole the show.

For me the highlight of the film was the historical backdrop - Egypt vanished as a nation and Rome reached the peak of its power and started the descent into decadence - all in one movie, and as you watch this epic you gain some insight into the psychology and power politics that made the 4 major historical figures of the time. If Antony had been a little smarter, Cleopatra might have done it after all!

8/10
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9/10
The Greatest Love Affair Of All Time
bkoganbing9 September 2006
No we're not talking about Cleo and Caesar or Cleo and Antony, we're talking about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the set of this mammoth epic. I well remember in 1962 you could not get away from all the talk about the hanky panky that Liz and Dick were engaged in. It took the Cuban Missile Crisis to knock it off the front page and out of people's minds. But as the costs on this version of Cleopatra mounted, Darryl F. Zanuck couldn't have bought better publicity than this.

And it's a pretty good film also. But I think the acting honors in this go to Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar. It is the best portrayal of Caesar I've seen on either the big or small screen. Harrison's Caesar is a man at the top of his conqueror game, not anyone's fool. Though he's definitely charmed by Cleopatra, he's fully aware of what she wants from him also. His fall is not from misjudging Cleopatra, but misreading public opinion back in Rome.

Contrast that with Richard Burton as Mark Antony. No doubt the love affair and eventual marriage to Liz Taylor helped his performance as a man is totally thinking with his hormones. As for Elizabeth Taylor she is a most bewitching and lovely Cleopatra. She was the perfect Cleopatra for her time.

Roddy McDowall probably has his best adult screen role as Octavian. He undergoes a remarkable transformation from callow youth to bloodless conqueror. What Antony tears up and throws away, he just hangs around and picks up the pieces.

In the supporting cast I would single out Andrew Keir as Agrippa, Gregoire Aslan as Pothinus, and Martin Landau as Ruffio for special mention.

A whole lot of tickets were sold to see the most publicized lovebirds of all time in 1963. They had to be because Cleopatra's cost over runs nearly broke 20th Century Fox. But the move going public saw and intelligent and literate spectacle. Director Joseph Mankiewicz gave us DeMille grandeur without DeMille Victorian dialog.

And that's as good a reason as any to see Cleopatra.
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10/10
One of the greatest epic films that Hollywood ever produced.
nicolaos77712 May 2007
At 243 minutes, this is one of the longest movies ever made. Nominated for 9 Academy Awards, (including Best Picture) it finally won 4 for its special effects, cinematography, costume design, and art direction. Impressive sets and costumes, remarkable styling, large scale epic scenes (such as Cleopatra's spectacular entrance in Rome or the sea battle in Action), thousands extras, excellent cast and, strangely for Hollywood's productions, a very historically accurate script, based on ancient historians (Plutarch, Suetonius, etc) consist an underrated masterpiece. It's the widely known tragic story of Queen of Egypt Cleopatra VII (69-30 BC), the last and probably most famous member of the Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty, that ruled Egypt from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC until Egypt became a Roman province in 30 BC. Cleopatra tries to maintain control of her kingdom and satisfy her ambitions to unite Egypt and Rome in a great empire by having affairs with Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and later Mark Antony (Richard Burton) after Caesar's assassination. In real life Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had a passionate affair on the set of this movie and finally became one of the most celebrated couples in Hollywood. Undoubtedly gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor (in my opinion the best Cleopatra ever on screen) was the ideal choice for the role of Cleopatra, being very close to Plutarch's description: "...For her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible..." (Plutarch, Lives, Anthony). Richard Burton gives a memorable performance as Mark Antony and Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar simply appears the depth of his great talent. Excellent performances too from Roddy McDowall as ruthless Octavian Caesar Augustus, Hume Cronyn (Sosigenes), Cesare Danova (Apollodorus) and Martin Landau (Rufio). "Cleopatra" actually was an idea of Greek American tycoon, Spyros P. Skouras, Republican Party's leading member and 20th Century Fox's powerful President. His dream was to present the audience a spectacle of unique grandness about the ill-fated last Queen of Egypt Cleopatra, that could compete TV programs, bringing people back to theaters and the success of other similar epics, (such as MGM's Ben Hur). He also wanted to pay a tribute "...to the beautiful Greek Queen of Egypt..." as he stated in an interview. But the movie's astronomical budget (44.000.000 $!!! in 1963, about 1 billion $ today!!!) caused his fall from Fox's "throne". Studio's heads doubted that "Cleopatra" could ever make back its record production costs and so they decided to remove him and terminate his long time reign in 20th Century Fox.. But despite Studio's fears it did well in 1963's box office with approx. 60 million $ grosses only in USA. Joseph L. Mankiewicz both directed and scripted "Cleopatra" brilliantly (although Skouras's friend Ruben Mamoulian was initially hired as director). Irene Sharaff, Vittorio Nino Novarese and Renie simply deserved the Oscar they won for best costume design and Hermes Pan did a splendid work in choreography.
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10/10
Elizabeth is Cleopatra
darkoraj8 September 2005
This is one of the most spectacular movies in history. Everything in it was great, costumes, sets, acting - in one word SUPERB. I like Elizabeth Taylor,and it is fact that she was most beautiful woman in the world back 1950/60. So who else could play Cleopatra at the time? No one but her. Liz is just perfect as Cleo. Although critic's didn't gave much credit to her acting, for me she was very good. Harrison and Burton are just great as Caesar and Antony,so is Roddy McDowall as Octavian. Cleopatra was nominated for the Best Picture in 1963, but lost to Tom Jones (1963),and won four Oscars for Costumes, Set/Art Decorations, Visual Effects and Cinematography. Cleopatra is still most expensive movie in history. I hope one day six hours version will be found, and that Cleopatra will take her place as one of the best epics in film history.
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NEW DVD EXONERATES THIS MUCH MALIGNED FILM
Brian-1849 June 2001
This is not a perfect movie. No one has ever suggested it is. That said, it is much better than you may have been led to believe. Technically, it is superb, with sets, costumes, cinematography, music, etc., apparently unattainable by today's filmmakers. If you doubt this, watch "Gladiator" immediately after watching "Cleopatra". The technological weaknesses of the former are stark and unavoidable when compared to this film. The first act, especially, is without equal. Rex Harrison, as Caesar, dominates the screen and gives the performance of his life (Henry Higgins not withstanding). He earned his "Best Actor" Oscar nomination, and then some. The second act suffers, more likely than not due to the merciless re-editing by the studio that saw two hours of film hit the cutting room floor, and major roles like those of Cronyn and McDowall reduced to little more than bit parts (Mankiewicz originally envisioned this as two films, not one), from an occasional lack of cohesion I tend to think was not in Mankiewicz' screenplay. While La Taylor is ravishing throughout, she sometimes appears to be in a bit over her head. Again, this is more apparent in the problemmatic second act. There has been an active search for years by the Mankiewicz estate, and others, to find the missing elements from his original cut and restore "Cleopatra" to what he envisioned. This may yet happen. I hope it does. In the meantime, this newly restored roadshow version is most welcome.
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5/10
CleoLizzie, or the Study of Excess
nycritic26 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If you're brave enough to sit for four hours of talk, talk, and more talk, prolonged entrances, even more prolonged exits, scenery, crowds, and Liz Taylor's awful acting (which in this movie is only overshadowed -- pun intended -- by her powerful make-up), then you must be a sucker. Anyhow, I was. TCM offered this four hour turkey in its showcase about "Making Faces" and the history of Cleopatra over the years, first as-performed by Claudette Colbert who was much more vamp-ish and at least could make the anachronisms of her very 1930-ish wardrobe seem convincing, then as this travesty of a film, at the cusp of what would become "The Liz and Dick Show."

Didn't Joseph Mankiewicz even bother to check the two Shakespeare plays ("Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra") which narrate the stories presented here? Or was he too enamored of his own capacity for dialog that he thought, "Sure. Let me make 'em talk until the celluloid melts; it's my dialog and they'll love it." Not so, Mr. Mankiewicz -- what worked so well in ALL ABOUT EVE tanks here. And for a film this excruciating and long, made even longer by its lack of action, it's a killer. It made me wish to do myself in, especially in a painful way. But I hung on for dear life: I've seen worse, so this wasn't that bad. Just bad enough to make me feel like the one responsible for being under that massive caravan in CleoLizzie's entrance to Rome. Only I'd tip it over.

I blame Mankewicz for the accelerated aging I've suffered as a result of having sat through CLEOPATRA. It's his fault my hangover was as big as Texas and then some the morning after. It's his fault that every time I see Liz I feel compelled to retch and double-over, and I consider her a darn good actress. But at least I can say I sat through the cursed thing even at the expense of my own health, and that I will never ever do such a thing. Again. Ever.
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10/10
A piece of history presented with a flair commensurate with the abilities of Joseph Mankiewicz.
Sugarrunbees25 August 2004
Historically, Cleopatra takes the viewer into one of the most powerful governments on Earth. George Bernard Shaw weaves facts and imagination into concrete visuals.

Actors chosen for various roles portray the looks, personality, and philosophy of their respective characters to a 'T'. Elizabeth Taylor shares Cleopatra's passion. Beautiful, sensuous, intelligent, desirous of bringing her beloved Egypt into the forefront of world power and politics.

Rex Harrison portrays Julius Caesar's elegance, loyalty to Rome, and the hardness required of a good general and leader, but mixed with kindness and mercy. Mr. Harrison showed well what brought down Julius. Julius Caesar's need for warmth and love and his desire for a son made him fair game for Cleopatra, a powerful ruler also in need of passionate love and desire to please her man but secondary to her love for Egypt.

Whatever description history and historians have given to Rome's leaders, Cleopatra's actors

give outstanding performances and thereby present viewers with the flavor, the looks, and even the taste of Roman Empire power and leadership.

Joseph Mankiewicz takes us onto the streets and and into the estates of Rome; the horrors of battlefields, and shows the idiosyncrasies of Egypt's Pharaohs, and how death battled life for ultimate power.

One item lacking in the VHS version of Cleopatra is the elimination of the beginning commentary by a gentleman standing by Egypt's great Sphinx. His comments on Egypt, Cleopatra, and George Bernard Shaw provided an excellent set-up for this epic film.

All in all - worth a 10.
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