Once upon a time, economics dictated that porn could be filmed on relatively big budgets, as witness the pinnacles of that phenomenon, Bob Guccione's "Caligula" and the digital playground team's pair of "Pirates" movies. Now with porn free and streaming such foolhardy epics no longer make sense, but Antonio Adamo's "Cleopatra" was made under the wire and is carried by its decent production values.
Not so its sequel "Cleopatra II" -see my separate review of that disaster. But the first part of the story is both sexy and visually arresting, no mean feat.
Unlike the current set of industry hacks, Adamo doesn't dishonestly claim as parody the practice of ripping off mainstream hits, but rather does his own relatively serious (I don't recall any comedy content in his many features) takes on popular subjects, as notably in his breakthrough string of "Gladiator" movies in the wake of Ridley Scott.
This riff on Cleopatra and ancient Rome, a subject he would return to with a bang in his "Roma" trilogy. owes a lot to another top director's epic, James Cameron's "Titanic". The connection is that Adamo frames his story of the romances of the Queen of the Nile in a modern-day framework, giving much of the footage over to a team of grave-robbers intent on cloning a 21st Century Cleo from the mummy's DNA. Cameron's framing his romance within the hunt for the ship at the bottom of the sea went a long way toward making his movie so successful.
Julia Taylor, in very fake-looking black wig, is an odd chase for the title role, but her humping ability more than makes up for any perceived miscasting. Male cast is relatively lame, but the other prominent femmes including Sandra Russo and Rita Faltoyano are great eye candy. Dutch actress Bobbi Eden as the sort of Lara Croft character in the modern day footage is unconvincing, upstaged by her boss, Laura Angel, a perfect villainess.
Location shooting in Cairo and Luxor, Egypt is extremely impressive given limited schedules and the only drawback is Adamo's using video rather than film for lensing. All told, the acting and the sci-fi oriented cloning storyline keeps one's interest, rather than getting in the way in our "cut to the chase" all-sex-all-the- time culture.
Too bad the cliffhanger ending saga gives way to a completely disappointing sloppy seconds sequel.
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