114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

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swo17
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114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#1 Post by swo17 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:35 am

Cleopatra

Image Image Image

A pre-code film that sneaked onto screens just as the censorious Hays Office began cracking down on Hollywood's racier propositions, Cleopatra is a libertine paean to decadence and depravity that can still send a viewer's mind reeling and pulse thumping all courtesy of the Golden Age's swampiest psychosexual auteur, Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments; The Greatest Show on Earth; The King of Kings).

Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night; The Palm Beach Story; Drums Along the Mohawk) presides over the most outrageous spectacle this side of The Scarlet Empress as the eponymous pharaoh queen who speeds from Julius Caesar (Warren William) to Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon), from Egypt to Rome, from war-room to bedroom... The whiff of incense permeates every scene, with each connected to the next in a veritable matrix of whips, blindfolds, and bindings the crazed arrangement laying bare all the fetish inklings of the moving-picture dream.

Lavishly produced with some of the most inspired waxing-moon photography and unwholesome set-design to come out of the studio system, DeMille's film is an erotic tour-de-force that obliges us to re-examine the appeal of this most popular of Hollywood directors. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Cleopatra for the very first time on Blu-ray, in a Dual Format (Blu-ray + DVD) edition.

SPECIAL DUAL FORMAT (BLU-RAY + DVD) EDITION FEATURES:

• Beautiful new progressive encode of the film officially licensed from Universal and presented in its original aspect ratio
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Original theatrical trailer
• Audio commentary by film critic and scholar F. X. Feeney
• 11-minute documentary on director Cecil B. DeMille
• 10-minute documentary on star Claudette Colbert
• 10-minute documentary on the Production Code era
• 40-PAGE BOOKLET including 1934 interview material with DeMille, notes on the film by Craig Keller, and rare archival imagery
Last edited by swo17 on Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Peacock
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#2 Post by Peacock » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:14 am

Hmm sounds like Craig wrote the blurb :wink: well it's taken me from a maybe to a yes anyway, good job!

What does everyone think of the film?

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domino harvey
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#3 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:30 am

It borders on unwatchable (and I like DeMille), I don't recall anyone from the Alt Oscars thread enjoying it either

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#4 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:44 am

Unwatchable? Claudette Colbert? That steelbook looks great, at least.

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Gregory
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#5 Post by Gregory » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:02 am

I watched this film with my septuagenarian parents last year. The description above almost makes me feel awkward about it in retrospect.

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Tommaso
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#6 Post by Tommaso » Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:40 pm

I haven't seen this particular film, but I recently had the pleasure to see DeMille's mindblowing (in terms of over-the-top style) "Madam Satan", So if the description isn't totally misleading I have the feeling this one might be exactly my kind of stuff. Great steelbook design indeed.

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swo17
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#7 Post by swo17 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:02 pm

And I am just now realizing that this is another film whose spine was chosen to coincide with the year of the film's original release. On the '34 tip, I personally would have welcomed an upgrade of Eureka's Of Human Bondage.

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Tommaso
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#8 Post by Tommaso » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:16 pm

Not to speak of Forst's "Maskerade", of course.

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AlexHansen
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#9 Post by AlexHansen » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:55 pm

Skipping past 40 & 41 has me thinking those might end up being spine/release year combos as well.

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david hare
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#10 Post by david hare » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:06 pm

If the Mank weren't such a masterpiece I would love the deMille even more.

As it is I love it enough to buy this in a flash. The Leisen decor, staging, choreography and bountiful beefcake make it unmissable. And along with Ten Commandments in which he preserves his 30s High Victorian static valedictorian acting syle as late as 1958 it's his other greatest historical epic.
Last edited by david hare on Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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swo17
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#11 Post by swo17 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:14 pm

AlexHansen wrote:Skipping past 40 & 41 has me thinking those might end up being spine/release year combos as well.
40 is supposed to be Lang's Die Nibelungen.

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AlexHansen
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#12 Post by AlexHansen » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:46 pm

Despite the lack of being fun, I'll allow it.

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Tommaso
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#13 Post by Tommaso » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:15 pm

"The queen is testing poisons.".... Oh Pleeaaasee... And that's just one of the memorable moments of this freaked-out film.

I couldn't resist getting the 5-disc-US "Cecil B. DeMille Collection" dead cheap at ebay (have a look, there were several sellers offering it at a steal price three weeks ago, when I bought it) and just had the pleasure to see this film. Well, seriously, you need a lot of humour to fully enjoy it, as this is by no means a great film in the usual sense of the word. The sets are indeed ravishing, dialogue is at times outrageous, the acting by the male leads is incredibly hammy (goddamn awful, but it doesn't really matter in this case), Claudette Colbert is almost beyond comparison in her erotic radiance, and the whole thing just leaves me baffled. Forget about the "Scarlet Empress" comparison, though. This one really cannot compete, but it is highly enjoyable if you like your films to be way over-the-top. I actually thought that the Egyptian scenes in Harlan's "Hanna Amon" couldn't be surpassed in pure hilariousness, but this one does it easily. Pure camp of the highest order, and almost through the whole of its running time. But to repeat it: this is NOT a masterpiece by any means.

Buy this at your own risk, but if the other films in the 5-disc-set I mentioned come close to this one, I'd say that you'd need that US set anyway, so perhaps there isn't any real need to double dip...

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david hare
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#14 Post by david hare » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:28 pm

There's of course a famous photo of JVS with Lubitsch on the set of Cleopatra looking on with barely concealed bemusement at the shooting.

I think Cleo is definitely one of his very best (Samson and Delilah, Ten Commandments both versions, Madam Satan, Bucaneer..) And amidst all that gorgeous Leisen decor, and Travis Banton millinery and costume, two of deMilles unsmistakeable trademarks: the static posing of actors in the style of High Victorian spectacle painting, who are directed to read their lines declamatorily in these poses; and a kind of fetish he has in the minutiae of decoration within the costumes - the insertion of highly detailed decorative patterning of relective jewllery or stone inserts which are emdeed in neck and arm details which he picks up and parallels in background decor. This is a superbly lyrical visual tendency he explores to fabulous effect in the Technicolor movies. The '56 Ten Commandments is worth watching for this relatively insignifcant detail alone (it says everything about his attention to detail, and the depth of art association for his references in fact) and the forthcoming Samson and D whose restoration was mercifully overseen by the lately sacked Ron Smith at Paramount. This will most certainly prove to be one of the great Blu Rays to render Techni ever made. (I remember long ago stoned on extremely strong opiated weed watching a mint 35mm IB of this in which the ultra fine grain color detail parrallels literally vibrated from the screen in three dimensional effect.)

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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#15 Post by evillights » Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:39 pm

david hare wrote:I think Cleo is definitely one of his very best (Samson and Delilah, Ten Commandments both versions, Madam Satan, Bucaneer..) And amidst all that gorgeous Leisen decor, and Travis Banton millinery and costume, two of deMilles unsmistakeable trademarks: the static posing of actors in the style of High Victorian spectacle painting, who are directed to read their lines declamatorily in these poses; and a kind of fetish he has in the minutiae of decoration within the costumes - the insertion of highly detailed decorative patterning of relective jewllery or stone inserts which are emdeed in neck and arm details which he picks up and parallels in background decor. [.....] The '56 Ten Commandments is worth watching for this relatively insignifcant detail alone (it says everything about his attention to detail, and the depth of art association for his references in fact) and the forthcoming Samson and D whose restoration was mercifully overseen by the lately sacked Ron Smith at Paramount. This will most certainly prove to be one of the great Blu Rays to render Techni ever made. (I remember long ago stoned on extremely strong opiated weed watching a mint 35mm IB of this in which the ultra fine grain color detail parrallels literally vibrated from the screen in three dimensional effect.)
What David said.

Sorry, but from my perspective this is one of our most exciting releases we've done. I think it's a very funny and amusing film as Tommaso suggests; it's also much more than that. The world is still catching up to Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs (or not), and hopefully the spotlight being shone on DeMille's Cleopatra will lessen the definition of the cobwebs cast about this director's work, which in the process only serve to deluster all the psychological (and psycho-sexual) possibilities the work suggests. I'd be happy as a dying wish for society that no-one ever has to hear the words "hammy acting" used pejoratively again.

More than an enjoyable lark, it's a powerful and important film.

Luc Moullet has a new book coming out in a few months about Cecil B. DeMille, which hopefully will further change minds on some of these pictures.

ck.

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#16 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:35 pm

Tommaso wrote:Claudette Colbert is almost beyond comparison in her erotic radiance
(sigh) The perfect raison d'etre for this film. Anyway, that set is a steal even if the packaging is kinda rubbish. I'd love to get this at some point, but I agree with the earlier comments. As the first DeMille film that I watched, I keep finding more to like about it.

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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#17 Post by david hare » Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:10 pm

I watched the barge scene again last night and, you know, it just works every time. Each viewing brings fresh delight from the actors especially - I used to think of Henry Wilcoxon as total ham but he's terrifically good. THe badinage between Cleo and Marc Antony is directed with such a perfect arc for the seduction, I believe it's in fact the equal of Mank's absolutely superb badinage scenes between Liz and Rex in his other great film. (Liz was never better than this. And Colbert is impeccable - deMille knows how wonderfully only a fine comedienne like her could manage his slower pacing and rubato dialogue.) THe whole scene with its thundering kettledrum climax signalling history's greatest fuck is completely overwehlming and profoundly moving to me. (While also being funny, but never, never camp.)

Someone also needs to write a book on the sheer volume and quality of the beefcake in deMille.

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Tommaso
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#18 Post by Tommaso » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:46 am

david hare wrote: the static posing of actors in the style of High Victorian spectacle painting, who are directed to read their lines declamatorily in these poses
Good point, I wouldn't have thought of this comparison. To me it simply looked as if DeMille hadn't overcome the silent filmmaking style, late 1910s, and had just infused it a little with Busby Berkeley-style ornament (the latter works perfectly). And I loved the barge scene, too. But on the other hand there are moments like the stabbing of the guy behind the curtain which looked like a particularly misguided take on Hamlet-Polonius (especially the overly melodramatic death of that guy), and the ladies in the Rome 'boudoir' soon after look and especially gossip as if they came directly out of "Madam Satan" and someone had just put some Roman costumes on them. I have absolutely nothing against this film, but moments like these simply sent me literally rolling on the floor. Which is why I find the film campy: its dead funny in moments when its author intended it to be totally serious.

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david hare
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Re: BD 34 Cleopatra

#19 Post by david hare » Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:03 am

Even deMille's actors probably agree with you, sometimes. Anne Baxter's performance in the '56 Commandments completely obsesses me for its details (It's a completely iconic study that I will never solve Im sure) it at first seems to be entirely composed of bits of business, eye rolling, redundant gesticulation, vocal overpronunciation, etc but this is precisely how he encouraged such a great performance from her (and she's one of my favorite actresses in all cinema). So she gives a performance through this film which she probably thinks is a travesty in the mode ancienne, (or even the ancienne mode) and what we get in posterity is a totally concentrated concatenation from the director who instills every actor's work into a stylistic whole. Even actors like Yul look better in deMille than they ever do elsewhere. I cannot recall a single other perf by Wilcoxxon outside deMille. yet in Cleo he's a sex bomb (to me anyway!) Even Dame George (Sanders) looks perfectly at home in Samson riding chariots with insouciance. I agree someone like Eddie G looks like he's playing an extremely dodgy Bad Yid stereotype. But let's face it deMille has to get over the pharisees in the temple moment in history, after all. (No more will be said about this by me.)

I follow Craig's lead here. Demille is definitely as important a figure in cinema as Stroheim or Grifffith and he survives from the 1910s to as recently as Vistavision and Stereo. He's a showman, there's the circus all over him (thank christ), he obviouslty loved sex and power, goregous men and women, and his films remain endlessly entertaining and engaging.

I would be happy to die watching a deMille picture while I was slurping a drink. And probably shouting something encouraging at the screen.

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Re: 114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#20 Post by What A Disgrace » Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:23 am

Its rather close to the disc's release date, shouldn't full specs be revealed soon?

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Gregor Samsa
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Re: 114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#21 Post by Gregor Samsa » Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:50 pm

A quick verdict from twitter:
The upcoming Masters of Cinema Blu-ray of De Mille's 1934 CLEOPATRA is just a weeny bit camp, but the transfer is fabulous. Review soon.

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Re: 114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#22 Post by remy » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:51 am

Full specs have been posted:

• Audio commentary by film critic and scholar F. X. Feeney
• 11-minute documentary on director Cecil B. DeMille
• 10-minute documentary on star Claudette Colbert
• 10-minute documentary on the Production Code era
• 40-PAGE BOOKLET including 1934 interview material with DeMille, notes on the film by Craig Keller, and rare archival imagery

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: 114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#23 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:17 pm

Now I've got to buy it. The commentary is especially welcome as I don't have any research texts on DeMille. That and the booklet should be a great start.

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manicsounds
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Re: 114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#24 Post by manicsounds » Tue Sep 11, 2012 8:54 am


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Drucker
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Re: 114 / BD 34 Cleopatra

#25 Post by Drucker » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:30 am

DVD Beaver.

Looks really, really good.

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