In the 1860s, a dying aristocracy struggles to maintain itself against a harsh Sicilian landscape. The film traces with a slow and deliberate rhythm the waning of the noble home of Fabrizio Corbero, Prince of Salina (the Leopard) and the corresponding rise to eminence of the enormously wealthy ex-peasant Don Calogero Sedara. The prince himself refuses to take active steps to halt the decline of his personal fortunes or to help build a new Sicily but his nephew Tancredi, Prince of Falconeri swims with the tide and assures his own position by marrying Don Calogero's beautiful daughter Angelica. The climatic scene is the sumptuous forty-minute ball, where Tancredi introduces Angelica to society.Written by
The film was shot over 11 of the hottest weeks of the year. Toward the end of the schedule, Burt Lancaster took time out to pick up his Best Actor's prize for Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) at the Venice Film Festival. See more »
During one of the long shots of the journey to Donnafugata, a blur crosses the screen near the center, apparently caused by a fly crawling over the lens. See more »
The longest cut of "The Leopard" runs 205 minutes. This version (which has achieved almost legendary status) is (reputedly) available on video in Italy, and was shown theatrically (at least in Toronto, Canada), in the 1970's. For many years, only the 165-minute, English-dubbed version was available in North America. The 187-minute Criterion DVD release is currently the longest available version, and is, in fact the same version as the Italian DVD release at 180 minutes (the 7-minute time difference is due only to the PAL transfer rate differential). See more »
To summarize, this film was released, dubbed and butchered, in the US in 1963/64, never released on video but occasionally seen in bootleg version. The British Film Institute did a restored print of the original Italian version in 2003. I saw it in a theater in London last summer and found it fabulous, not least for seeing it in the wide screen setting. It's now out on DVD on three disks: the restored print with Italian dialogue (Burt Lancaster dubbed into Italian -- it sounds wacky, but it works big time); a disk with the butchered English release version of forty years ago (valuable to see what they did, and also to hear Lancaster's own English); and a disk with supplementary materials including very interesting interviews with a wide variety of participants in the movie. Of the multi-hour blockbusters of the period, I'd put it behind Lawrence of Arabia, but very close to Doctor Zhivago and well ahead of Ryan's Daughter.
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