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Historical epic. The triumphs and tragedy of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra.
For more about Cleopatra and the Cleopatra Blu-ray release, see Cleopatra Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 26, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Directors: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Darryl F. Zanuck
Writers: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall, Sidney Buchman
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Pamela Brown (I), George Cole, Hume Cronyn
» See full cast & crew
Cleopatra Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 26, 2012
Winner of four Oscar Awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Effects, Special Visual Effects, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "Cleopatra" (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox-UK. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailers; audio commentary with Chris Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky; behind the scenes featurette; archival footage from the film's premiere in New York and Hollywood; and a lot more. In English, with English SDH, Spanish, French, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Swedish, Hebrew, Icelandic, Simplified Mandarin, and Portuguese (Continental) subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Excluding some minor embellishments, the events chronicled in director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's infamous Cleopatra are based on the writings of the famous Greek historian Plutarch.
The film begins in 48 B.C., shortly after Gaius Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) and his allies have defeated Pompey and his legions at Pharsalus in central Greece. A few days after the decisive battle, Caesar is informed that Pompey is still alive and hiding in Egypt. Realizing that there can be no lasting peace with his arch-rival alive, Caesar vows to find and kill him.
But Egypt is also on the verge of a civil war. Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (Richard O'Sullivan, Futtocks End) has driven his sister Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) out of Alexandria and threatened to kill her if she ever returns and questions his authority. When Caesar and his generals arrive, he offers them a gift, the head of Pompey, which he hopes will be enough to earn their respect.
Soon after, Cleopatra secretly enters Alexandria. She meets Caesar and the two discuss the future of Egypt. Both then realize that they need each other, for different reasons.
Meanwhile, the Pharaoh, who senses that his gift might have failed to achieve its intended purpose, orders his troops to surround the palace where Caesar and his generals are staying. The outnumbered Roman troops promptly burn the Egyptian flotilla and part of the city, including the Great Library of Alexandria. When reinforcements arrive, the Pharaoh is ousted, and Caesar crowns Cleopatra Queen of Egypt.
Eventually, Caesar and Cleopatra fall in love. When their son Caesarion is born, a small group of rebellious senators begin to question Caesar's loyalty to Rome. Nevertheless, while Cleopatra is visiting Rome Caesar convinces the Senate to vote him 'dictator for life'. Soon after, he is assassinated.
The killers are eventually eliminated by Mark Anthony (Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold), one of Caesar's most trusted lieutenants, who promises to restore order. But Cleopatra, who fears for Caesarion's life, heads back to Alexandria.
Mark Anthony, Lepidus, and Caesar's ambitious nephew Octavian (Roddy McDowall, Fright Night) split the Roman Empire – Mark Anthony receives the Eastern Provinces, Lepidus receives Africa, and Octavian Gaul and Spain. Shortly after, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra meet and fall madly in love with each other. Cleopatra also manages to convince her lover that together they could rule the world. But when news about Cleopatra's ambitions reach Rome, Octavian decides that it is time to eliminate Mark Anthony and rebuild the Roman Empire.
Once the most expensive film in the history of Hollywood, Cleopatra is a feast for the eyes, undoubtedly one of the greatest ever made. Admittedly, however, this is also a film in which the stars and their antics are far more important than the story and its message.
Still, the film is enormously enjoyable. Taylor and Burton, who really fell in love during the shooting of the film (even though both were already married), make a great couple together, while Harrison looks very authoritative during the first half of the film. The panoramic scenes (with the incredible amount of extras and visual effects) are also spectacular.
The editing is somewhat problematic, but it is unfair to criticize the film since the 243-minute version isn't the final version of the film which Mankiewicz envisioned. (A lot of the footage that was removed before and after the film's first screening in New York in 1963 was apparently destroyed by 20th Century Fox. The version of the film that is presented on the Blu-ray is the original New York premier length, which runs at approximately 251 minutes and includes the Overture, Entr'acte and Exit Music).
Note: In 1964, Cleopatra won four Oscar Awards, including Best Cinematography (Leon Shamroy) and Best Effects, Special Visual Effects (Emil Kosa Jr.).
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.22:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Cleopatra arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox-UK.
The high-definition transfer is enormously impressive. Detail, clarity, and especially image depth easily rival those of the outstanding Blu-ray release of William Wyler's Ben-Hur, which Warner Brothers produced last year. The massive panoramic scenes also look incredibly fluid (if you have the ability to project your Blu-rays on large screens, prepare to be overwhelmed by the stunning visuals). Also, even though there have been some concerns about the color grading of the new high-definition transfer, in my opinion both color saturation and color balance are very convincing.
There are absolutely no traces of problematic denoising or sharpening corrections. Unsurprisingly, when blown through a digital projector Cleopatra very much looks like film, boasting organic qualities that are typically extremely easy to appreciate if an older film has undergone a meticulous restoration and lab technicians have not tried to 'modernize' it. The high-definition transfer is also free of annoying flecks, scratches, and debris. All in all, this is breathtakingly beautiful presentation of a legendary film, which I am convinced will appear on many Top 10 lists at the end of 2012. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are six audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 4.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Catalan DTS 5.1, and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1. For the record, 20th Century Fox-UK have provided optional English SDH, Spanish, French, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Swedish, Hebrew, Icelandic, Simplified Mandarin, and Portuguese (Continental) subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The Blu-ray disc does not come with a booklet clarifying where the audio was remastered and how, but the final result is indeed very impressive. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 boasts a wide range of nuanced dynamics that give the film the type of depth it rightfully deserves (check out the following two sequences: Cleopatra's reception in Rome and Octavian's arrival in Alexandria). Alex North's epic score also gets a tremendous boost. The brass section, in particular, sounds great. I would also like to specifically point out that during the Overture the strings are far richer and crisper than they are on the old R1 3DVD set 20th Century Fox produced. The dialog is clean, stable and exceptionally easy to follow. There is absolutely no background hiss whatsoever.
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray release are perfectly playable on North American Blu-ray players, including the PS3.
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I hope that Cleopatra is announced for release in the United States soon because it truly looks stunning on Blu-ray. The release also comes with plenty of outstanding supplemental features, including a very informative new video piece with 20th Century Fox film archivist Schawn Belston and author and film historian Brad Geagley. There is no doubt in my mind now that this release will appear on many Top 10 lists at the end of 2012. Hats off to everyone at 20th Century Fox! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Cleopatra Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cleopatra 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Available for Pre-Order - February 15, 2013
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is yet to officially announce and detail its upcoming 50th Anniversary Blu-ray editions of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's legendary Cleopatra, but Amazon already has them available for pre-order. Early retail information indicates that ...
• Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Cleopatra Heading to Blu-ray - September 30, 2011
The UK branch of 20th Century Fox Entertainment has revealed that it will release Joseph L. Mankiewicz's legendary Cleopatra (1963), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The exact technical specs, supplemental features, and region coding status for this ...
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