In 48 B.C., Caesar pursues Pompey from Pharsalia to Egypt. Ptolemy, now supreme ruler after deposing his older sister, Cleopatra, attempts to gain favor with Caesar by presenting the conquerer with the head of Pompey, borne by his governors, Pothinos and Achillas. To win Caesar's support from her brother, Cleopatra hides herself in a rug, which Apollodorus, 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, 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, Caesar's protégé, beholds Cleopatra aboard her elaborate barge at Tarsus some years later, he is smitten and becomes both her lover and military ally. Their liaison notwithstanding, Antony, to ...Written by
How DARE you and the rest of your barbarians set fire to my library! Play conqueror all you want, Mighty Caesar! Rape, murder, pillage thousands, even millions of human beings! But neither you nor any other barbarian has the right to destroy one human thought!
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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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