Pamela Brown

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Richard III Review


Good
Laurence Olivier's Richard III is one of the stagiest versions of Shakespeare you'll find on film, and it's also his least faithful work, chopping and editing the Bard's play willy-nilly. I'm no Shakespeare expert, but even I can spot the hatchet work here. (For the uninitated, Richard III follows the waning days of the War of the Roses, with Richard III (Olivier) taking on big brother Edward (Cedric Hardwicke) in a bid for the throne. Deception, murder, and betrayal rule the day until the outcome is decided.)

The undortunate side effect of the faithfulness is that Richard III has a real Masterpiece Theatre quality that you just can't shake. Olivier plops the camera down at one end of the room and lets scenes take place in wide shots, unmolested. Long scenes are certainly forgivable, but the end result is that this rendition of the story looks far more like a play than a movie. It isn't until the second half of the film when we really get out of the castle, and thank God we do. But unfortunately, even these scenes aren't exactly thrill rides. The landscapes chosen are barren and void of majesty. Sword fights are genteel affairs with no distinguishable choreography. Why ride an army out to battle if you're not going to use them?

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Cleopatra (1963) Review


OK
It is virtually impossible to separate Cleopatra the movie from Cleopatra the spectacle -- and that's because they are truly and rarely intertwined.

A legend of Hollywood, the 1963 production of Cleopatra has so much curiosity surrounding it I hardly know where to start. It was budgeted at $2 million and eventually cost (up to) $44 million to produce -- close to $300 million in today's dollars. Liz Taylor almost died during the filming and was given a tracheotomy to keep her alive. The production was forced to move from Rome to London and back to Rome again. Two of its stars fell in love (Taylor and Burton) on the set, ruining both of their marriages. 20th Century Fox essentially went bankrupt, leading to the ousting of its chief. The first director was fired after burning $7 million with nothing to show for it. The second director (Mankiewicz) was fired during editing, only to be rehired when no one else could finish the picture. Taylor threw up the first time she saw the finished product. Producer Walter Wanger never worked in Hollywood again. And the original six-hour epic was cut to a little over three.

Continue reading: Cleopatra (1963) Review

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Cleopatra (1963) Movie Review

Cleopatra (1963) Movie Review

It is virtually impossible to separate Cleopatra the movie from Cleopatra the spectacle -- and...

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