As the reviewer before me has made a serious mistake, let me make something clear at the beginning of my comment. I CLAUDIUS: A TELEVISION EPIC is not the famous 1976 thirteen-part TV series based on the novels by Robert Graves but the interview-documentary about making of "I Claudius" - one of the most unique, unforgettable, accurate BBC productions ever.
Starting with the most memorable quotes from the series, the documentary supplies a viewer with wonderful information about the "I Claudius" production. You get the true wings of the terrific job a group of clever people did. However, neither the cast nor the director talk about it one or two years later (in the late 1970s), or even a decade after (in that case 1986). It's all just fresh, in 2002 when almost one generation has passed since the production and there is something surprisingly awesome about it... "I Claudius" has not dated whatsoever! What is more, it has become even more interesting.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE DOCUMENTARY: Herbert Wise finds the whole work on the series really extraordinary, something you experience once in a lifetime expressing gratitude and giving thanks to the wonderful cast and crew he had a chance to work with. Sian Phillips, the terrific Welsh actress who played wicked Livia, mentions a lot of facts concerning the works as well as the reactions of the audience that quickly emerged. She found it pretty difficult to behave in the Roman way, as a ruler who owns a number of slaves and has to be rude to them. Nevertheless, as a very intelligent person, she occurs to be exceptionally right in her evaluation of the production. Derek Jacobi, the famous Claudius, highlights some facts that have to do with the wit and ambiguity of his role. How is it to play a "staggering fool" with such a clever mind and never to stop disguising? Brian Blessed, Augustus Caesar, mentions excellent facts about his role, about the difficulty of being advised to be no "ceasar" but an "ordinary man." His famous death scene is mentioned as a very mysterious moment in the whole production... ("I want to see Rome die in your face" is the challenge he heard from the director). George Baker, poor Tiberius, the role of the greatest age discrepancy, also appears to be very vivid in his memories of the humor and tragedy of mother's pressure and a serious diet he was put on. Mr Baker appears to be a very nice person with a particular sense of humor. Excellent British actor John Hurt discusses his unforgettable role of Caligula, the role of a "divine emperor" characterized by distorted mind, cruel insanity and tremendously black wit. From the crew, the mention is made of three significant people: the expert on the Roman period Robert Erskine, the producer Martin Lisemore and the writer Jack Pulman. All very powerful staff!
It might seem pretty hard, even unendurable to feel the roles of the distant past, to beat a mysterious curse that was believed to hang over "I Claudius." However, all the cast appear to be very enthusiastic about the production, about the mutual relations, about make up department, the camera... everything. Derek Jacobi even says that this was one of his best roles he'd like to be associated with. Brian Blessed claims that it is a TV series that shall always stay on its own. Why?
Perhaps, you might say: "Success motivates praise" True! Yet, there is something more about it. Maybe, it is a mysterious Roman power still alive after all these years? To be more serious, I think it is the real effort, commitment to the wonderful job they all did. By doing their best, they all made a truly timeless screen production. Very worth seeing for all "I Claudius" fans, for all antiquity buffs and all viewers who appreciate grandiosity. I recommend you to see both the documentary and the unforgettable "I Claudius" which was the TV series of my youth and made me really love antiquity.
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