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
In the restored scene where Queen Cleopatra VII (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) and Julius Caesar (Sir Rex Harrison) visit Alexander the Great's tomb, the backdrop is the famous image of Alexander's battle with Darius of Persia. It is best known as a large floor mosaic discovered in the ruins of Pompeii and is said to be based on a third century B.C. Hellenistic painting. There is no evidence the image was ever located in Alexandria, though it did exist before the time in which this movie is set, and so is historically reasonable. See more »
Several scenes include philodendrons, plants of South America that were unknown in the Roman world. 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 »
First of please note this is a review of the recent restored DVD version of the film not the savagely cut older version of the film.
Having watched the documentary on this film it seems amazing this film was ever completed how the director managed to get anything even vaguely coherent to the screen is a minor miracle in itself. Cleopatra is a luscious period epic and it's clear no expense was spared on either scenery or costumes, gorgeous to look at but somehow unsatisfying at the end. The movie seems to lose it's way half way through as Rex Harrison departs so for me does the quality of this movie.
It's difficult to tell whether this is due to over the top performances from Taylor and Burton or the forced cuts to reduce the running time. Roddy McDowell is the highlight of the 2nd half of the film and i'm sure Joaquin Phoenix must have researched his role for Gladiator here, McDowell's Octavian is chilling in the extreme. But the rest of the 2nd half of the movie descends into melodrama, where the 1st gave us the excellent Harrison restrained and regal as Ceaser the 2nd gives us real life lovers Burton and Taylor locked in an over-acted doomed romance. But throughout the film there are supporting actors giving first class performances that without the cuts would be interesting to see Martin Landau, Andrew Keir, Hume Cronyn and George Cole all have their moments it's just a shame there aren't more of them.
If I could split my vote over the two halves of the movie the first half would get 9/10 the 2nd 6/10 as I can't I'm going with a 7/10 overall.
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