An Epic Movie That Almost Broke 20th Century Fox!
A War Movie:
In many ways this film is a war film. We have Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and his lieutenant Ruffio (Martin Landau) grinning while they've put down a civil war by Pompeo. Amazing scenes of the Roman legions, the burning of the funeral pyres.
Later in the film, Marc Antony (Richard Burton) is convinced to fight against Octavius (Roddy McDowell) because he is in love with Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) and wants to have Egypt as their own empire. He loses miserably on the high seas. The burning boats, his abandonment of his men for Cleo's barge -- just amazing imagery.
The scenes of the Senate in Rome are interesting. Great to see several character actors I've seen in other films and Carroll O'Connor as one of the assassins of Caesar who would later make TV history in the 70s as Archie Bunker. The arguing as they held their red and white togas in check was humorous. The intrigue as Octavius convinces one and all that a fight with Egypt is the way to go.
The spearing of Cleo's advisor during this near riot outside the Senate building was horrific and true to form. William Shakespeare could not have written this better (oh wait, he did! But I digress.).
Of course the themes of love pepper this film, but more than what you might think. Rex Harrison as Caesar suffering from seizures, falling for Cleopatra and she having a son by him, all very nice.
Liz Taylor plays several nearly nude scenes during the time with Caesar that are quite tasteful yet sexy -- the bath with the vestal virgins, the wild dancing & dinner entertainment, the colors and the pageantry. Amazing.
As we know the story of the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra does not make the scenes less horrific and interesting. And Roddy McDowell as the crestfallen Octavius who wanted more than anything to march her through Rome for political purpose was dashed.
The pageantry of the film, the amazing costumes and the tightly controlled production values with the cast of thousands (no CGI in those days) with war ships and amazingly realistic sets, it's no wonder that 20th Century Fox nearly went bankrupt with such an amazing film.
Cleopatra must have been in at least ten or fifteen different gowns and dresses, and many wigs, jewelry, bracelets and necklaces to set back Tiffany's! I believe the film won an Academy Award for Best Costumes.
This film has everything -- from costumes and designs, from war and strategy, political intrigue, in-fighting, betrayal, death by sword or suicide, and yes a bit of overacting on the parts of Burton and Taylor. But hey, it's an epic! Highly recommended.