Unlike some particularly grating Shakespeare adaptations of recent years, Charlton Heston's overlooked "Antony & Cleopatra" manages to work as cinema and as an adaptation of a work by the world's most famous playwright. The production values-- giant panoramas, expensive battle sequences, glorious period costumes-- are staggering, and Heston comports himself quite well in the triple role of screenwriter/director/actor. Not that I intend to use all my Shakespeare film reviews to bash Kenneth Branagh, but compared to Heston, he's awful, unpalatable in all three capacities. He is that anyway, but even Heston's just-decent acting is well balanced by his expert direction of others. The exception to that is Hildegard Neil, an awful Cleopatra. She has zero dignity in the role, and manages to bear a creepy resemblance to "Rock 'n' Roll High School"'s Principal Togar every now and then. John Castle's performance as Caesar is obviously the best in the film, but still doesn't touch Roddy McDowall's bold, furious, intense Octavian in the Liz Taylor mega-film. Comparisons with that other movie are inevitable, and the winner is hands-down the earlier epic. This version is not very well paced, and, let's face it, it wasn't exactly Will's best dialogue. And Hildegard Neil really drags the movie down a bit, although she's not as bad as everyone says. Visually it's majestic, and that John Scott/Augusto Algero score is certainly pleasing to the ears (though it can't rival Alex North's "Cleopatra"). It's okay, but I can't say I recommend it unless you're on a really serious Shakespeare kick and the only other movies available are Branagh's.
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