I first watched Cleopatra as a child, probably slumped on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, during one of the years when we had a TV in the house. I loved it at the time, mainly because I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with Egypt, and also because Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes are sparkly and wonderful.
So when I received an invitation to a screening of the newly released digitally restored version, I happily accepted. I’d forgotten that it’s four hours long, but ultimately that wasn’t a problem: curling up in my comfy chair in one of Fox’s cinema rooms, I was transported back into the world of 1960s filmmaking. And a very pleasant experience it was, too.
Sometimes things lose some charm when they’re digitally restored – I particularly tend to find this with music – but if anything, the restoration of this epic film only adds to its overall excellence. The colours are brighter and sharper; the sound is snappier; you can follow the storyline easily and be sucked into the world of classical Greece and Rome and Egypt. Of course, seeing it on the big screen probably helped.
Elizabeth Taylor is spectacular throughout, shining in acting ability (and of course looks). And one of the other main things that struck me was the lack of music; or perhaps ‘use of silence’ would be a better term. There was music sometimes, when appropriate, but not the constant background chatter-noise we hear today, where every scene must be overlaid with some kind of musical accompaniment so we know which emotions to feel. So many scenes in Cleopatra simply involved the actors talking to each other; you could hear their shoes clacking on the ground as they walked towards each other, and the spaces between words had to be filled only with their silent communications, not with a new indie song from an exciting up-and-coming artist who’d spend the next six months playing gigs in Shoreditch and then retreat forgotten to the bottom of the slush pile.
It was good. Really, really good. And I maintain that it’s one of those movies everyone should watch as a child, if only to prove that it’s possible to sit still for four hours. It’s out on Blu-ray now, with a load of bonus features including lost footage, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and commentary from the director and crew.
Cleopatra – Digitally Restored 50th Anniversary Edition in Cinemas Nationwide Tomorrow (12th July 2013) and on Blu-ray.
CLEOPATRA will be available for the first time ever on Digital HD beginning 28th May 2013. In addition to the film, this HD premiere on iTunes features the 80-minute documentary “Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood,” made up of film clips, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews that explore the fascinating stories behind this 5-year production. The CLEOPATRA 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is currently available to own from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The 2-disc set is packed with dazzling bonus materials featuring never-before-seen exclusive content including Cleopatra’s lost footage, commentary from Chris Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more. Additionally, fans can watch footage from the film’s original theatrical premieres in both New York and Los Angeles.