Cleopatra (Blu-ray) 50th Anniversary Edition - Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 5 Old 05-29-2013, 10:47 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1963
MPAA Rating: G
Feature running time: 251 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.20:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital 4.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Martin Landau, Hume Cronyn, Pamela Brown, George Cole, Cesare Danova, Roddy McDowell, Kenneth Haigh
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Music by: Alex North
Written by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougal, Sidney Buchman
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 21, 2013

"The motion picture the world has been waiting for!"

Film Synopsis:

Elizabeth Taylor stars as Cleopatra, the glamorous and cunning queen of Egypt. To secure her hold on power, she seduces the rulers of Rome, only to meet her match in Mark Antony, played by Richard Burton. Their passionate romance could decide the fate of the world’s greatest empires.

My Take:

Directed by Academy Award winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and three years on the making, Cleopatra is an epic that was the highest grossing film of 1963, bringing in more than $24 million in its initial release. The film was also one of the most expensive costing an unprecedented $42 million (equivalent to over $300 million today) which nearly bankrupted Twentieth Century Fox. In addition to elaborate sets and costumes, production delays and the relocation of principal filming from London to Rome added to the skyrocketing budget. The film later won four Academy Awards, and was nominated for five more, including Best Picture.

Prior to this review I don’t believe I have ever seen any parts of Cleopatra. With a runtime of just over four hours, a large ensemble cast and the aforementioned production elements this film is broad is scope and limited in narrative as it tells the story of the ambitious and passionate Egyptian Queen. It’s a beautiful shot film and features terrific performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as well as strong supporting turns from Martin Landau, Rex Harrison, and Roddy McDowell to name a few. I didn’t find the subject matter to be a compelling as I would have liked some of this is probably due to the scripts inability to support the film’s bloated runtime. I did find though that Cleopatra is filled with moments, some better than others, which essentially pay dividends but not to a wholly satisfying degree.

Perfect film or not there is no denying the allure of its grandeur and the reward found in the wonderful performances and superb chemistry between leads Taylor and Burton. It makes it debut on Blu-ray in this 2 disc 50th anniversary edition as well as a 2 disc Blu-ray Digibook edition containing rare images from the making of the film. Justifiably considered a cinematic spectacle Cleopatra lives up to it eponymous subject.

Parental Guide:

The film contains thematic material and some violence that would be inappropriate for young viewers.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 86

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373647

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373647

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Video: 92

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Cleopatra comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2 Mbps.

Accordingly to Fox’s press documentation Cleopatra recently underwent a full restoration and the results are impressive. This film’s 2.20:1 framed high definition video presentation on Blu-ray looks terrific on my 100 inch screen. Colors are tonally balanced with lustrous primaries, clean rendering and delineated secondary hues that all look terrific. Fleshtones are appreciably lifelike with discernible texture and natural depiction. The level of visible detail in facial features, hair and clothing during close-ups is noteworthy. Wide angle shots vary in terms of visual depth but most reveal subtle degrees of refinement and fidelity is never in question. Resolution is excellent as the blend of interior shots and sets featured in the story offer clarity, detail and dimension that belie the film’s 50 years. Of course this also made some of the special effects more obvious but that’s fine. Blacks are noise free, stable and fairly deep. Contrast and brightness are balanced well which enlivens bright scenes and colors while maintaining an appreciable level of visibility and dimension during darker segments. Grain is present and appears undisturbed. Warner is to be commended on this excellent and faithful high definition presentation that is sure to please even discerning fans.

The high resolution DTS-HD MA audio mix does a terrific job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue has discernible intonation, with distinctive clarity and above average room penetration. This is a more or less front oriented presentation that makes good use of the entire system to deliver a seamlessly integrated audio experience that is highlighted by the richness and defining clarity of Alex North’s memorable music score. The surrounds are utilized for atmospheric extension that creates an enveloping presence that enhances the music while robust dynamic range and low frequency effects combine to provide solidity and weight to the audio without sounding unnatural. These primarily come in the form of bass content associated with the orchestration and to a lesser degree in support of recorded elements that contain lower bass response. I was extremely pleased with the outcome of this audio presentation. It highlights the strengths of the source material without ostentatious display and sounds great.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1:

  • Cleopatra Through The Ages: A Cultural History

  • Cleopatra’s Missing Footage

  • Fox Movie Channel presents Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman

  • Commentary with Chris Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky

  • The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence

  • Disc 2:

  • Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood

  • The Fourth Star of Cleopatra

  • Fox Movietone News
    1. Archival Footage of the New York Premiere
    2. Archival Footage of the Hollywood Premiere
  • Commentary with Chris Mankieqicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky

  • Theatrical traliers

Final Thoughts:

Cleopatra, the 1963 cinematic spectacle starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, that won four Academy Award, and nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox comes to Blu-ray for the first time in this 50th Anniversary Edition. Featuring beautifully restored high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and a complimentary supplemental package this is a must have for fans and is well worth checking out for enthusiasts. Enjoy!


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

Ralph C. Potts
Blu-ray Reviewer
My Home Theater
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post #2 of 5 Old 05-29-2013, 07:17 PM
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Thanks for the review, Ralph!

I'll probably pick this one up the first time a good sale price comes along. While I've seen it on DVD plenty of times, it will be nice to see this on blu-ray. Glad to see that the video is so impressive and the sound is good, too.

Hey, it's nice to watch epic films like this one, where all the people, animals, and backgrounds are real, instead of modern CGI.

Looking forward to it... smile.gif

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post #3 of 5 Old 05-30-2013, 01:00 PM
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The director (don't trust myself to spell the name correctly) intended this to be two 3 hour films. Studio boss Zanuck took it away from him and cut it to 4hrs or so, a lot was lost that would have made it more coherent. Later it was cut even more for general release after the road show run. The docs on the first disc are worth seeing just to show what a mess making this movie was.

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post #4 of 5 Old 05-30-2013, 01:57 PM
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Looks like Netflix is ignoring this release. mad.gif

FWIW, Amazon Prime streaming has a "Restored" version available for HD streaming. Any chance you could compare this Ralph?
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post #5 of 5 Old 05-30-2013, 03:26 PM
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Ahem! It will be a worthy addition to my Lawrence of Arabia.

Thanks for the review.
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