Reviews

Cleopatra Special Edition

3

Stomping all over the ancient world, Caesar (Rex Harrison) and his legions finally arrive in Egypt, where the mighty Emperor immediately falls for the Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor). Head spinning, heart thumping and loins stirring, Caesar's palpitations cause him to neglect his duties back in Rome, which leads to tragedy. But the Big C soon has his fair share of personal problems, too, for best buddy Mark Anthony (Richard Burton) has also fallen for Cleo...

An insanely lavish spectacle from the days when `insane' and `lavish' were Hollywood's middle names, 1963's Cleopatra isn't an out-and-out trainwreck. Yes, the script is appalling (soap opera dialogue slathered over a plot that blends garbled history with bits of Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw), but there are flashes of real quality in the performances.

Harrison struggles manfully against appalling miscasting to make Caesar humane and likeable (even faced with Taylor's interpretation of Cleo as some sort of sulky debutant) and - unsurprising, considering they were romancing like rabbits off set - there's real chemistry between Taylor and Burton. The World's Greatest Welshman should be congratulated for treating this pap like it was great drama - his enviable gravitas brings the film to spluttering life.

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