Blu-ray Review: Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic CLEOPATRA


Eureka DVD’s latest film in its Masters of Cinema series is Cleopatra, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 epic starring Claudette Colbert in the title role. The film is luscious on Blu-ray, with the 1:37: 1 aspect ratio highlighting the magnitude of the sets and the opulence of the costumes.

Cleopatra was filmed just before the Hays Code came into play, and because of this DeMille’s film is a little bloodier and a little raunchier than most Hollywood films from the time. Sure, it’s tame by today’s standards, but the film cause quite a bit of ruckus back in the day.

Claudette Colbert stars as Cleopatra, with Warren William as Julius Caesar, and Henry Wilcoxon taking on the role of Marc Antony. The film follows Cleopatra in her relationships with the two men, showing her as the key element in both their downfalls. It’s a tricky role to play, but Colbert manages to walk the fine line between girlish-wonderment and seductive Queen.

While the actors deserve their credit, the star of the film is undoubtedly the production design. Huge sets frame the action, and the sheer scope of it all is breathtaking – it’s clear to see why DeMille was ‘King of the Epics’.

Cleopatra is a film which is dialogue heavy and light on action, save for an impressive (if all too short) montage towards the end. This may put off some modern viewers who would like their Roman epics to be more like Ridley Scott’s Gladiator than William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Special Features

The Blu-ray features three mini-documentaries which are about 10 minutes in length each. One discusses censorship and the Hays Code, another gives an overview of Claudette Colbert’s career and a final documentary looks at DeMille’s work as a director. They’re good – but they could have been much more in-depth.

The disc also comes with an informative commentary by film critic F. X. Feeney, it’s excellent, but it might have been slightly better if he had someone with him to discuss proceedings.