September has been a weird month for 18 Cinema Lane. The movies that I’ve reviewed have either been period films or films with a release date from the 1940s. In October, I will try to review movies that are outside of these cinematic realms. But for this blog follower dedication review, I have chosen a movie that was released in September of 1946. According to Wikipedia, Caesar and Cleopatra was released in September of 1946 in both the United States and the United Kingdom. So, this is the film I have chosen for this review. When it comes to this particular cinematic story, I have heard of the version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. But I had never heard of the 1946 film until I was researching movies for this specific post. The only film of Vivien Leigh’s that I’ve seen is Gone with the Wind. Despite the fact that I was not a fan of that movie, I wanted to give other movies starring Vivien a chance.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: The acting performances in Caesar and Cleopatra were pretty good! Claude Rains did a great job at bringing his character to life! Creating a character that appears both likable and unlikable is not an easy feat. By adopting a persona that was both charming and cunning, Claude was able to present Caesar as being likable enough to form relationships and alliances, but unlikable enough to show how self-centered this character truly is. Despite having a limited amount of screen-time, Apollodorus quickly became my favorite character in this movie! This is because Stewart Granger, the actor who portrayed this character, was so expressive and animated. Because of applying these elements to his performance, Stewart’s portrayal of Apollodorus was such a joy to watch.
The set designs: I really liked seeing the sets throughout this movie! They made this cinematic world feel larger-than-life and epic because of how grand they were in size. These sets appeared historically accurate, showing the level of detail that the film’s creative team applied to this part of the project. The craftsmanship of the sets was truly remarkable, with Cleopatra’s palace being a good example of this. All of these factors helped make the scenery feel immersive, like the audience can see themselves entering that world. The sets were so impressive, that they were visually appealing!
The costumes: Caesar and Cleopatra was presented in Technicolor, so the costumes were showcased in the way they were meant to be seen. These costumes were as stunning as the cinematic world where they resided in! The characters were clothed in bright colors, helping to make the costumes eye-catching and vibrant. Even outfits that were mostly white had a splash of color incorporated into them. The use of metals was also interesting, as it ended up complimenting the outfits. One example was Apollodorus’ blue outfit that had gold embroidery. There was one scene where Britannus explains to Cleopatra why he wears the color blue. This explanation provided some interesting insight that isn’t always found when it comes to a film’s costume designs.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Cleopatra’s character development: When I think of Cleopatra, I think of a woman who has the skills and intelligence to lead a kingdom. While watching Vivien’s performance, there were times when she brought my idea of this historical figure to life. But there were also times when it felt like Vivien was trying to recreate her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara. I recognize that she was making the best of the material she was given. However, I think the film’s creative team was attempting to take advantage of the popularity and success of Gone with the Wind. If this was their intention, the decision caused Cleopatra’s character development to come across as inconsistent.
The run-time: Caesar and Cleopatra is a film that is over two hours. Because of this, it caused the movie to feel longer than it might have been intended. The run-time also made some scenes feel drawn out for the sake of satisfying the film’s run-time. One example was when the Roman army met the King of Egypt. The conversations featured in this script also seemed longer than they needed to be. If Caesar and Cleopatra was under two hours, maybe an hour and fifty minutes, then the story would have moved at a faster pace.
Lots of dialogue-heavy scenes: In this movie, there’s a war taking place between Rome and other countries, including Egypt. However, the majority of the story focuses on the characters having conversations with one another. As I’ve already mentioned, these conversations felt longer than they needed to be. Because of the number of dialogue-heavy scenes, it created an imbalance between these scenes and any scenes that were action-heavy. The scenes that involved action were far and few between. Moments of suspense were also subdued. A perfect example of this is when Alexandria’s library was on fire. I understand that this film was created during the Breen Code era. But it doesn’t mean that project shouldn’t have action, especially if the story calls for it.
My overall impression:
As I mentioned in my review, Gone with the Wind became a very successful and popular movie. When this happens, other studios will try to recreate that success. But not every movie can recapture that accomplishment that the previous title had reached. Caesar and Cleopatra is a perfect example of this situation. While the movie was just ok, it feels like it tried to take advantage of Gone with the Wind’s popularity. From Vivien’s reenactment of Scarlett O’Hara to the story being more dialogue-heavy, this film wasn’t able to be its own project. Despite this, there were factors within the film that I liked. Some of them were the costumes and the sets. Because this is the only cinematic version of this story that I’ve seen, I don’t have anything to compare this project to. But I’m glad that I chose this film for my 140 blog follower dedication review. To each and every one of my followers, thank you for choosing to support 18 Cinema Lane! Your interest in this blog means a lot to me.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
What are your thoughts on this review? Do you like films that feature a historical approach to the story? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!