Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman), an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie (Dame Elizabeth Taylor). His reunion with his father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives), who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
In 48 B.C., Julius Caesar (Sir Rex Harrison) pursues Pompey from Pharsalia to Egypt. Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (Richard O'Sullivan), now supreme ruler after deposing his older sister, Cleopatra VII (Dame Elizabeth Taylor), attempts to gain favor with Caesar by presenting the conquerer with the head of Pompey, borne by his governors, Pothinus (Grégoire Aslan) and Achillas (John Doucette). To win Caesar's support from her brother, Cleopatra hides herself in a rug, which Apollodorus (Cesare Danova), her servant, presents to Caesar. The Roman is immediately infatuated. Banishing Ptolemy, he declares Cleopatra Egypt's sole ruler and takes her as his mistress. A son, Caesarion (Loris Loddi), is born of their union. Caesar, however, must return to Italy. Although he is briefly reunited with Cleopatra during a magnificent reception for the Queen in Rome, Caesar is assassinated shortly thereafter, and Cleopatra returns to Egypt. When Mark Antony (Richard Burton), Caesar's protégé, beholds Cleopatra...Written by
Nunnally Johnson was paid $140,000 for a script polish. As Rouben Mamoulian, the original director, insisted only on his original screenwriter, there was nothing for Johnson to do except to receive his paycheck and cash it in. See more »
When the sphinx that carries Cleopatra in her entrance to Rome is about to go under the Arch, the shadow of the scaffolding behind the Arch is visible on the sphinx until it goes under it. See more »
And so it fell out that at Pharsalia, the great might and manhood of Rome met in bloody civil war, and Caesar's legions destroyed those of the great Pompey... So, that now only Caesar stood at the head of Rome. But, there was no joy for Caesar as in his other triumphs... for the dead which his legions counted and buried and burned were their own countrymen.
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Premiered at a length of 243 minutes. A week after the premiere, the film was reduced to 222 minutes, and edited further to 194 minutes for general release. The 194-minute version was the default broadcast television version for years; home video and cable television releases are of the full-length cut. See more »
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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