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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Cleopatra [Blu-ray]

 

(Cecil B. DeMille, 1934)

 

Also available as a Limited Edition Steelbook HERE:

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Universal

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #114

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:41:21.158

Disc Size: 32,095,541,255 bytes

Feature Size: 30,692,364,288 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 24th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1567 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1567 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary: DTS-HD Master Audio English 1565 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1565 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary by film critic and scholar F. X. Feeney
• 11-minute documentary on director Cecil B. DeMille (10:02)
• 10-minute documentary on star Claudette Colbert (9:16)
• 10-minute documentary on the Production Code era (9:46)
• Original theatrical trailer (4:15)
• 40-PAGE BOOKLET including 1934 interview material with DeMille, notes on the film by Craig Keller, and rare archival imagery

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: 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.

 

 

The Film:

"Cleopatra" reveals Mr. De Mille in an emphatically lavish, but nevertheless a relatively restrained mood. He may not neglect to dwell upon Cleopatra's amorous behavior and has evidently preferred that she does not overdress. But, even so, the scenes wherein she is beheld are less blatant than those he has depicted of other sorceresses in previous films.

Claudette Colbert, the Poppaea of "The Sign of the Cross," is entrusted with the part of Cleopatra. She wears a dark wig and looks even more attractive than usual. She speaks her lines with the necessary confidence, whether they are concerned with love, hate or politics. When it is a matter of disposing of Pothinos with a javelin, she conducts herself with the coolness of a queen of the olden days. And when the chance is offered for a little comedy she acquits herself cleverly.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Colbert impersonated two notable biblical beauties early in her career in the Cecil B. DeMille films The Sign of the Cross (1932) and Cleopatra(1934). The latter film is notable not only for the sophisticated flavor Colbert brings to the role of the doomed monarch, but also for its lavish sets and art direction.

The fabulous costumes that adorned Colbert won raves for designer Travis Banton, although he was not the original costume designer for the film. The scoop is that Banton was called in at the last minute to redesign the entire wardrobe - in one day - because Colbert threatened to walk off the set due to the "unacceptable" gowns made for her by DeMille's staff at Paramount. According to publicity released by the studio, Banton produced "one of the most extravagant wardrobes seen on the screen on a day-to-day basis."

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Universal obtained this pre-1949 Paramount catalog and it is now offered on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema arm of Eureka Cinema in the UK.  The image quality shows some wonderful grain that really adds character to the visuals. There is a surprising amount of additional information visible now on all 4 sides of the 1.33:1 1080P-transferred frame. What benefits the presentation, in my opinion is the texture which is rich and impressive. Contrast gets the improved layering higher-resolution bump with deeper blacks and more gray tone separation. Visually this gets high marks.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

Cecil B. DeMille Collection - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Screen Capture Samples

 

Cecil B. DeMille Collection - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille Collection - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille Collection - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille Collection - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Rudolph Kopp did the score for many of these DeMille efforts and MoC have rendered the track in a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at a reasonable 1567 kbps. It sounds very pleasing with some hidden depth surfacing and everything sounding consistent and as clear as dialogue could represent from a production of this era. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

I suspect that for most people these will be new as The Cecil B. DeMille Collection from 2006 (reviewed HERE) that many bought didn't have any extras but a Cleopatra 75th Anniversary Edition DVD came out in 2009 and it has the same supplements as this Blu-ray edition. We get a professional commentary by Filmmaker F.X. Feeney - as well as three video featurettes; Claudette Colbert: Queen of the Silver Screen, Cecil B. DeMille: Hollywood's Epic Director, Forbidden Film: The Production Code Era totalling about 1/2 hour. There is also a theatrical trailer and the Masters of Cinema package adds a 40-page liner notes booklet including 1934 interview material with DeMille, notes on the film by Craig Keller, and rare archival imagery.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Cleopatra is imperfect but has the 'epic' feel of a DeMille masterwork. Colbert is simply exquisite as the 'bad girl' lead. I certainly enjoyed this more film-like viewing than the SD presentation from 6 years previous. The Blu-ray. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the film and the extensive extras buoyed my appreciation for subsequent viewings. Yes, we can easily recommend this as  apart of your digital library. 

Gary Tooze

September 13th, 2012

 

Also available as a Limited Edition Steelbook HERE:

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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