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The Epic That Never Was (1965)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary  -  24 December 1965 (UK)
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The story of the aborted 1937 filming of "I, Claudius", starring Charles Laughton, with all of its surviving footage.


, (novel)
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Complete credited cast:
Himself - Host / Narrator
Robert Graves ...
Himself - author of 'I, Claudius'
Himself - Director
Herself / Messalina
Flora Robson ...
Herself / Livia
Emlyn Williams ...
Himself / Caligula
John Abbott ...
Himself - Ms. Robson's Host
Eileen Corbett ...
Herself - Script Girl
John Armstrong ...
Himself - Costume Designer
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Claudius (archive footage)
Captain of Caligula's guard (archive footage)


The story of the aborted 1937 filming of "I, Claudius", starring Charles Laughton, with all of its surviving footage.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

24 December 1965 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Filmen som aldrig blev av  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One of the first documentaries to make use of the opening theme from Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra", later made more famous in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey". See more »


Referenced in DVD-R Hell: Deception of a Generation: Part 2 (2013) See more »


Also sprach Zarathustra
(opening fanfare)
Music by Richard Strauss
Heard at the beginning and the end of the program
See more »

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User Reviews

A Look At What Might Have Been
14 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Having recently picked up the well known BBC miniseries of I, Claudius I was surprised to see this little documentary as a special feature. To describe it as a DVD special feature is an understatement of the highest order. The Epic That Never was is an amazing look at the first film attempt to make I, Claudius that reveals a lost film in all its splendor.

Actor Dirk Bogarde hosts this collection of surviving footage, retrospective interviews and footage of the studio where it was filmed as it looked in the mid-1960's. The interviews reveal the thoughts and remembrances of several cast and crew members looking nearly three decades back on the doomed production with some interesting thoughts. All the while Bogarde gives linking narration and commentary on the surviving footage. Yet while all this is interesting it isn't the highlight of the documentary.

The highlight of this documentary is of course the footage itself. The footage reveals a somewhat lavish production that could rival any of the epic films of the late 1930's. In particular is the performance of Charles Laughton in the title role especially in his speech in front of the Roman senate. If there is any shame to be found in the fact that the 1937 version of I, Claudius it is that most of the world never got the chance to see Laughton's performance and what influence it might have had.

The Epic That Never Was is a fine documentary. With its interviews and narration it is better then many of the similar documentaries found on many dvds today. More importantly the footage reveals what could possibly have been a classic. For anyone who enjoyed the BBC miniseries or is curious to see how that tale might have looked go no further.

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