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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.33%
Just Average: 13.33%
Pretty Crappy: 30%
Sucks: 10%

1 review, 24 user ratings

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Cleopatra (1963)
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by Slyder

"A Noble Failure"
2 stars

Man, quite notorious the history of this film is. Several setbacks, the near death of one of its stars, the scandalous romance that ruined the marriages of two of its stars, one director fired, and a whooping $44 million dollar budget when it only should've been $2 million. Yet after all the struggles, was the film worth it in the end? One wishes to say yes, but in the end, the answer is no. Cleopatra is big and majestic but manages only to collapse under it's own weight due to several shortcomings and sheer boredom, yet this film would've been better. Would have.

You all know the story. Queen Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) wants to settle the tensions between her kingdom and the ever growing Roman Empire. So she seduces Emperor Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) when he visists Egypt, and even bears a child of him. So she returns to Rome to claim her place with the Emperor, but suddenly Caesar is murdered and Cleopatra has to scramble back to Egypt. Marc Antony (Richard Burton) tries to make amends with Cleopatra and ultimately falls for her, and it seems that all the Roman Empire is within their grasp. Alas, Caesar's nephew Octavian (Roddy MacDowall) decides to wage war against them, determined to not make that happen.

This film has signs of greatness; hell, it's stamped pretty much in its forehead, yet it falls short. It comes periliously close to becoming and "all style and no substance" film. Sure, there's some impressive sets and costumes, plus some intriguing photography, but little or no story at all to back it up. The first half rolls on well with Cleopatra and Julius Caesar mixing it up with politics and greed (pretty much the only piece of story you'll find), but there are several scenes that run 2-3 minutes too long. Cleopatra's entrance to Rome is impressive but with nothing going for it, it starts to run way too long and borders at times on the pretentious side. You'll notice the ovbious borrowings of Shakespeare when it comes to Caesar's death (Hell, Mankiewicz directed 1953's Julius Caesar for Christ sake), and it brings the film's only true moment of suspense. But then all gets shot down in the 2nd half, when the 2nd romance starts between Cleopatra and Marc Antony. The film completely runs out of ideas right there, and starts a series of really boring, overindulgent, pretentious and downright ridiculous events enough to make the ultimate borefest (in my book) Wyatt Earp look downright exciting. It's all pretty but empty, with nothing to keep it running since it rather concentrate on the sets rather than let the story and it's characters flow. More so, it avoids a key saving grace that would've uplifted the movie: The crucial sea battle between Antony and Octavian. Here is a moment to show some exciting action and warfare, but it all crumbles down as the film centers itself more on what the hell Cleopatra does or does not than in Marc Antony and his fighting, which is left with very little screentime. The film, in my opinion, betrays its audience for good in this scene, since there's nothing going for it, and one even starts to wonder that if they spend 44 million bucks on this flick, why didn't they spare a couple of those million in the screenwriting department? It's just simply unexcusable.

Of course, one can't blame director Joseph L. Mankiewicz for this mess, since this project was doomed from the start. I give him credit for trying though, since he pretty much had to live under the hypodermic to actually go ahead and finish this film. I guess it's due to this that most of the acting is pretty much off the mark, starting with the lame performance by Elizabeth Taylor; while being beautiful and all, she just brings a screech to the chalkboard in most of her screentime. Richard Burton is laughable since his performance at times is wildly out of place in many scenes, I think at times that the guy was probably miscast. The only two saving graces in the acting department are Rex Harrison and Roddy MacDowall. Harrison manages to overcome a shoddy underdeveloped character and mold it into a fine performance. Roddy MacDowall chews the scenery throughout the entire 2nd half and is also worthy of praise. Big thumbs up for the Art Direction Department, but big thumbs down for the Writing Department.

In the end, this film is only recommendable for die-hard film fans and curious people around. The film is technically well made, with some impressive eye-candy and a story dying to get out, but it never does, it just sinks itself amongst the eye-candy and just makes it one pretty looking void. It's incredible the many careers that this film ruined, and how close the careers of some came close to ruin. With all the hoopla and all the big names surrounding it, this film over the years has managed to carve itself a reputation of being the greatest film that never was. Pity, since it had a lot going for it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2060&reviewer=235
originally posted: 08/15/03 19:54:57
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User Comments

4/15/11 Roger ramjet Have tried and tried to watch the film over the years. Just another Hollywood indulgence. 2 stars
3/26/09 brian When Julius Caesar dies halfway through, so does the film. 3 stars
9/05/08 Rada Sarbu The movie is amazing, a true masterpiece of the genre. 5 stars
3/07/08 Pamela White Epic success 5 stars
10/30/05 Mike A good film that could have been great if Zanuck had only left the cutting to Mankiewicz. 5 stars
10/22/05 Bill Ware Rex Harrison (Caesar) and Alex North (Composer) were the real stars of this movie. 4 stars
5/06/04 R.W. Welch Just about everything is mediocre except the budget. 3 stars
1/31/04 swamprat gold plated crap- perfect for Bad Movie Night 1 stars
1/26/04 john Fans of these old monumental Roman epics should like it- but there are better ones 4 stars
1/25/04 Dread Great scripting and a timeless story 4 stars
10/09/03 JimmyC Excellent Film 5 stars
9/01/03 Brad Geagley "Cleopatra's" greatness to this die lies in its ability to polarize people. 5 stars
4/12/03 Dave Watchable, but pointless considering this could easily have been done as a stage show. 3 stars
3/22/03 shikha Great but lengthy 5 stars
10/23/02 Charles Tatum Big and brassy, like Liz's bra 5 stars
7/23/02 TheChronic It's from the 60's, what did you expect? The Color Purple? classic classic classic 4 stars
5/16/02 Butterbean A victim of more style than substance 3 stars
4/06/02 Shannon Williams IT was real boring 1 stars
1/11/02 Andrew Carden How Could Anyone Hate This? It Was Cheap and Cheesy, but A CLASSIC!!!! 5 stars
9/25/01 JoAnna Hoang Movie was extremly long and boring and the actors couldn't act. Scenery was good though. 2 stars
6/13/01 Michael C. Smith It is amazing considering what went on during the production. Historicly improtant film 5 stars
4/04/01 Avrohom Leichtling One of the greatest films of all time, bar none. 5 stars
3/06/01 R.W. Welch Weakly written and not well acted, the scenery can't save it. 2 stars
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  12-Jun-1963 (PG)


  02-Feb-1964 (PG)

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