In Fraser Heston's forward to his father's Anthony And Cleopatra that is on the DVD that I just bought he mentions that his father was ever mindful of the mammoth Elizabeth Taylor film that only came out nine years earlier. He wanted to do something different and in that I felt that Charlton Heston failed.
Not that this is not a good production, it most certainly is, but it did not break any new ground in that regard in the way that Laurence Olivier's Shakespeare films had done. Heston is a stalwart and resolute Mark Antony who for the first time in his pantheon of classical heroes on the screen is really quite the fool, but a fool for love as history has brought Antony down to us.
He terribly underestimates Octavian played by John Castle who is best known as Prince Geoffrey of Anjou in The Lion In Winter. Heston marries Carmen Sevilla as Octavia and Castle thinks him and his following tied to the Caesar family. But Heston has a yen for Hildegarde Neil who is every bit as beguiling and seductive as Elizabeth Taylor or Claudette Colbert ever were as Cleopatra.
The sea battle of Actium is always mentioned by historians as one of the twenty or so decisive battles in world history. What is shown here is that it need not be fought, but Heston spoiling for a fight and eager to dust off this young punk Octavian commits to a sea battle with inexperienced Egyptian sailors. That was his downfall or the beginning thereof.
Speaking of which Actium is a nicely staged sequence and done for less money than you would think. Fraser Heston's narrative tells us how.
Antony And Cleopatra is a fine production, not the best Shakespeare adaption, but still quite good. Look for John Castle as Octavian, he really has the character down perfectly.
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