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In 48 BC, Cleopatra, facing palace revolt in her kingdom of Egypt, welcomes the arrival of Julius Caesar as a way of solidifying her power under Rome. When Caesar, whom she has led astray, is killed, she transfers her affections to Marc Antony and dazzles him on a barge full of DeMillean splendor. But the trick may not work a third time...
For more about Cleopatra and the Cleopatra Blu-ray release, see Cleopatra Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 28, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon, Joseph Schildkraut, Ian Keith, C. Aubrey Smith
» See full cast & crew
Cleopatra Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 28, 2012
Winner of Oscar for Best Cinematography, Cecil B. DeMille's "Cleopatra" (1934) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original trailer; audio commentary with filmmaker F.X. Feeney; short featurettes about the life and legacy of Cecil B. DeMille and Claudette Colbert; and more. The release also arrives with a lavish booklet featuring the words of Cecil B. DeMille, rare archival imagery, and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
During a time of turmoil, Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night) is kidnapped by Prime Minister Pothinos (Leonard Mudie, The Mummy) and taken deep into the desert together with the schoolmaster Apollodorus (Irving Pichel, Don't Gamble with Love). Pothinos is following the orders of Ptolemy, who wants his sister Cleopatra to disappear from the face of the earth so that he can rule Egypt alone. Before he leaves Cleopatra and Apollodorus to die under the scorching sun, Pothinos is informed that Julius Caesar has entered Egypt.
But Cleopatra and Apollodorus manage to walk back to the palace, where Caesar (Warren William, The Wolf Man) and his advisors are discussing a new strategy for the Roman troops. Wrapped in a large carpet, Cleopatra reappears and surprises everyone. Then she quickly conquers Caesar's heart and mind with her beauty and sweet talk about India and its riches. After she kills the outraged Pothinos, who has been hiding behind a large curtain and waiting for the right moment to stab her, Cleopatra accepts Caesar's invitation to visit Rome.
In Rome, the news about Caesar and Cleopatra's affair already has many powerful men worried about the future of the Republic. Led by Gaius Cassius and Marcus Brutus, a group of angry senators kill Caesar in the Theatre of Pompey. Cleopatra is spared.
The Senate decrees that Octavian (Ian Keith, It Came From Beneath the Sea) and Mark Anthony (Henry Wilcoxon, Mrs. Miniver) shall rule Rome together, and that Mark Anthony must avenge Caesar's death. The great warrior is also asked to punish Egypt and its ambitious Queen. But when Mark Anthony and Cleopatra meet in Tarsus, like Caesar before him he falls under her spell and forgets about his mission.
Meanwhile, in Rome Octavian declares Mark Antony a traitor and vows to destroy the Egyptian snake that has poisoned his mind.
Winner of Oscar for Best Cinematography, Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra is a lavish spectacle illuminated by the presence of the beautiful Claudette Colbert. It is also the last film that was made in Hollywood before the notorious Production Code was established.
DeMille's Cleopatra is substantially shorter than Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film. It is also a much more relaxed film with a distinct sense of humor. Its dialog is simpler and completely free of the pomposity that frequently sneaks in Mankiewicz's film.
Beside the production designs and visual effects, arguably the biggest difference between the two films is the overpowering presence of Colbert as Cleopatra. In Mankiewicz's film, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison essentially complement each other. In DeMille's film, Colbert is the only true star, an elegant seductress who is constantly in control. The confidence Colbert exudes in virtually every scene is also one of the key reasons why the film hasn't lost much of its sex appeal.
Cleopatra was lensed by cinematographer Victor Milner, who won his one and only Oscar with it. However, Milner earned multiple Oscar nominations for his contribution to such films as Lewis Milestone's The General Died at Dawn (1936), DeMille's The Buccaneer (1938), Andrew L. Stone's The Great Victor Herbert (1939), and Anthony Mann's The Furies (1950). Milner also lensed Preston Sturges' terrific The Palm Beach Story (1942), again with Colbert and Joel McCrea.
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.36:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.
For a film nearly 80 years old, Cleopatra looks quite impressive on Blu-ray. Most close-ups boast very strong depth and definition, while larger panoramic shots convey pleasing clarity. Color reproduction and color depth in particular are also very pleasing. There is a good range of lush blacks and stable grays and whites. Furthermore, the high-definition transfer is completely free of damaging sharpening corrections that so often seem to appear on other high-definition transfers for catalog titles that have originated from Universal Studios. Generally speaking, there are no traces of problematic denoising corrections either. Unsurprisingly, grain is visible throughout the entire film, though it is not always evenly distributed and resolved. Some minor scratches, black specks, and small vertical lines are still visible, but overall none are distracting. There are also some minor transition issues, but again these are small inherited limitations that will not affect dramatically your viewing experience. To sum all up, the technical presentation of Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra is certainly competent, and I have no doubts that fans of the film will be delighted with it. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track does not disappoint. The audio has been restored and much needed stabilization corrections applied. As a result, there is very good balance - there are no sudden spikes or drops in dynamic movement - and fluidity. Some light background hiss remains, but its presence is never overly distracting. The dialog is stable and easy to follow.
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cleopatra Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is an excellent release of Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra. The film looks quite beautiful on Blu-ray and all of the supplemental features from the 75th Anniversary Edition R1 DVD release have been retained. I really hope that this release will inspire other distributors to bring more of Claudette Colbert's films to Blu-ray, and specifically Preston Sturges' The Palm Beach Story, Douglas Sirk's Thunder on the Hill, and Frank Capra's It Happened One Night. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Cleopatra: Other Editions
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Cleopatra Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cleopatra Blu-ray - August 17, 2012
British distributors Eureka Entertainment have officially announced that they will release Dual Format and Limited SteelBook editions of Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (1934), starring Claudette Colbert, Warren William and Henry Wilcoxon. Street date for both is ...
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