Cleopatra - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cleopatra Reviews

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June 17, 2017
A last gasp for the "precode" era by Cecil B. DeMille who had earlier gotten into trouble with the same star, Claudette Colbert, in Sign of the Cross (1932). Indeed, he seems to be taunting the incoming censors by dressing her (and all of the female extras) in the skimpiest outfits possible. Unfortunately, most of the film is still rather turgid and not particularly daring. Cleopatra seeks to form a relationship with Julius Caesar (Warren William) who is soon offed by Brutus and a mob worried about his attack on their notion of the republic. When Marc Anthony (Henry Wilcoxon) comes out to Egypt to capture her, he too falls under her alluring sway. The Romans then rise up against him, leading to tragic ends. DeMille and his art direction team (Roland Anderson and Hans Dreier) do create some magnificent sets (there is an art deco feel to this Egypt) and the war montage near the end when the Romans attack is crazy in its fast editing and over-the-top content. But overall, I didn't find the drama compelling - I wonder if the lost silent version (1917) with Theda Bara was any better (I'm not game for the 4-hour Liz Taylor version). Perhaps 1930s audiences did find this a tonic to distract them from their woes nevertheless.
May 13, 2017
Funny , strange, gets better as it goes.
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ February 1, 2017
What an extraordinary year 1934 was for Claudette Colbert. "It Happened One Night", "Imitation of Life", and of course, Cecil B. DeMille's version of the epic story, "Cleopatra". It's lush and extravagant especially for the time period, with absolutely marvelous costumes by Travis Banton, and beautiful art deco sets by Hans Dreier. Warren William is solid as Julius Ceasar and Henry Wilcoxon is passable as Marc Antony, but, wow, Claudette Colbert sizzles as Cleopatra. She finds the right balance between regal grandeur and smooth seduction. This movie just squeaked in before the doors of the Hays Code closed, and thank goodness, because she's so beautiful while slinking around in those revealing outfits. There are some fantastic dance/circus performances as well, and the movie is such a visual treat. The dialogue sometimes gets a little silly, but DeMille knew a good story when he saw one, and he knew that sex and violence sold. His ambition in production, both in creating big scenes and in the small details, really pay off, and it's no doubt that this is one of those early films that shaped Hollywood "epic" movies for decades.
January 18, 2017
Pre-Production Code rendering of the often told Cleopatra story boasts of great visuals and a tad more sexuality than was typical for films back in the day.
April 3, 2015
An absurd, messy, and sporadically entertaining historical melodrama that really focuses more on the Romans than on Cleopatra. Anyone looking for a true study of the mysterious Queen of Egypt will have to look somewhere else, though fans of over-the-top cinematic fun will have a lot to enjoy here.

The cinematography, which won the Oscar, is excellent, with great shot framing and beautiful lighting effects. The editing is also impressive, most notably in a battle scene near the end of the film which is by far the film's best scene.

"Cleopatra", with its "Wolf of Wall Street"-like focus on the spectacles the titular queen surrounds herself with and the overly theatrical performances of its actors, feels more like "Monty Python" than serious history, and it doesn't dig deeper than its gilded surface, but it's a fun enough watch if you're bored and have 100 minutes to spare.
November 8, 2014
Stupefyingly superficial extravaganza.
½ August 12, 2013
Classic movie by DeMille, the 4th Cleopatra one in cinema history - the actings are good, Claudette Colbert being the best in the movie. To the time that it was shooted, it have nice scenography and photography. The main story follows the history, with some adptations, and focus on the characters. My score: 7,0 / 10,0
February 28, 2013
The a little bit stagy & dated film version of the classic story of History filmed exactly 30 years before the Elizabeth Taylor version.

Claudette Colbert was the Infamous Egyptian Queen & although good she lacked impact. You should watch this before the 1964 version since it's hard not to compare.

Considering it was made in 1934 it had amazing sets & costumes & quite good sound recording considering sound had only be around a few years. It's just a bit dull & tedious in parts.
November 5, 2012
Cecil B. DeMille is perhaps best known today for his over-the-top epics, such as The Ten Commandments, his final film and major Oscar winner. His version of the Cleopatra story does little to diminish this view: it is a spectacle, uninhibited and occassionally deranged, with a powerhouse performance from the beautiful Claudette Colbert.

This version does not attempt to be authentic: the Egyptian and Roman decor is art-deco, there are moments of sheer modernity - "Poor Calpurnia...well, the wife is always the last to know" - and much of the major expected action takes place off screen and is alluded to by non-players. This gives the sense of lives lived on the periphery of history.

The major selling point of this film is the cruise back to Egypt, where Cleopatra woos and then tries to kill Marc Anthony, and there is a pagent of such gloriously silly delight that it lights up the screen. As with everything DeMille did, this one looks like it cost the earth (which the Elizabeth Taylor version in '63 certainly did), but unlike that bloated version, this one works. It is a high moment in the dying days of Pre-Hayes code Hollywood, and worth seeing on the biggest screen possible, in a high quality print. Almost 80 years after it was made, this film still sings beautifully.
½ September 19, 2012
Claudette Colbert is gorgeous, and DeMille is epic, as usual.
September 12, 2012
not my favorite version of this tale but stilll watchable
½ September 8, 2012
Wow, Claudette Colbert in a barely there bikini top is quite a site as the seductress Cleopatra as she seduces Caesar, Warren William. With costumes that had to have been pre-code, Colbert is dressed as an enchantress that would make any man question his country. The sets are lavish, and while they do give the appearance of a present day college stage production they are very effective for a 1934 movie production, even when an actor comes stumbling on scene and we hear the thumping of wood where there should be stone. Many scenes are staged and stilted as is the dialogue which depending on the scene or performer goes between proper English and SoCal slang, circa 1930. And once Caesar is dead she plays Mark Anthony (Henry Wilcoxen) for the alpha-male that he is, enticing him with wealth, food, and the perceived male dominance. I believe that when Hollywood talks about the "casting couch" the Hollywood producers and casting directors are envisioning Colbert as Cleopatra because she spends a good majority of the movie reclining on some type of couch looking like a lithesome cat, not sure if she is ready to pounce for death or love. We see that Cleopatra is attracted to power and nothing else, when Anthony takes command to protect Egypt and Cleopatra when Rome declares war, she boils with lust over his ability as a general to lead, and loses it when it is a hollow army. The ability of Colbert as an actress is apparent during this scene when she goes from apathy to lust to desperation, a talent few actors can exhibit in a whole movie let alone one scene. The water battle scene is one of the great early examples of what movies can do to bring an unparalleled immersion into the past. Perhaps no other actress has exuded sex as much as Colbert during this performance, between her costumes, her voice, and her body language it reeked sex appeal at every scene, a truly great performance. The film has many flaws but the performance by Colbert makes me bypass those flaws to the point where I seek out this movie just to watch her, a rare talent.
July 5, 2012
Epic and over the top this was very dramatic and enjoyable. Claudette Colbert is wonderful as a very seductive Cleopatra torn between the desire to rule Egypt and love. Costumes and set were fantastic. Cecil B. DeMille makes an old tale more modern and definitely entertaining.
½ June 25, 2012
Lavishly photographed, but ultimately goofy take on the famous queen (Claudette Colbert) in ancient Egypt. The queen-to-be is kidnapped and taken to a new kingdom, where she sleeps her way to the stop and has scores of people serving and dancing for her. In addition, she becomes enveloped in a romance with the Julius Caesar (William Warren), but her reign on the kingdom eventually leads to despair and tragedy for the region. Pretty silly and dated, but it has its amusing moments. Would have been much better if the acting was of higher quality. It is has to be said, however, that the set pieces are quite well made. Interestingly, it is one of three films nominated for the Best Picture that starred Colbert (the other two being "Imitation of Life" and the 1934 winner "It Happened One Night," for which she one Best Actress).
February 23, 2012
A great film about a complex woman.
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2012
For a DeMille pageant film this one is not too over the top with Claudette suitably seductive in the lead although the 1930's eyebrows are a distraction. The production design and costumes are the real attraction here. Not a great film, not terrible but if you are looking for full on DeMille debaunchery cloaked in piety watch The Sign of the Cross instead.
January 29, 2012
Oh boy, another movie people love that I hate. Actually, I'd put it up there with Rear Window and Gladiator as the most overrated film. Look, I do admit, Claudette Colbert did OK, the special effects were great for the time, and Cecil B. DeMille did good for one of his earlier projects, but this is just a bland history lesson I really didn't care about. It barely even has a plot! It's just flashy special effect with about 4 major plot points, and you don't even care about the characters, so why would the major events matter if you don't even care about what happens to these characters? I think the worst part about these characters is they lack any real emotion, and even if they do have an emotion, it doesn't last long. It's just a bland special effects movie, that's it. Sure, the special effects are good, but you got to have a movie to go with it, and this isn't a movie. It's a mess. The story is basically a biography of, who else, Cleopatra. Nothing wrong with that, except it was executed horribly. They didn't develop the characters, they didn't make them likable, and they didn't make them realistic. Also, the editing was all over the place, and the filmmakers obviously thought special effects top story, which is quite false. The acting is just the same. Sure, Colbert did OK as Cleopatra, but everyone else was just boring and uninteresting. Finally, the characters are also not executed well. Nobody had any good lines, nobody had anything interesting to say or do, and that's a real disappointment, because the history of Cleopatra herself is very interesting and worth a read, but when it was translated to film... Oh boy. The first Cleopatra movie is now lost, only about 5 seconds of the film even exist as we now know. The second film, this one, is, like I said, a boring bland mess. The final major Cleopatra movie to host the one word name was the 1963 version, said to be the most expensive movie ever made, well, up until the third Pirates of the Caribbean, but that's beside the point. Even though it was very expensive and starred several big name actors like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the film flopped at the box office, and critics loathed the film. As for me, I just watched the most beloved movie of the 3, and I thought it sucked. Now what hope do I have for this story? Now, it's time for "The Best and Worst of Cleopatra". The best, obviously, is the special effects. Now, I shall give credit where credit is due, these special effects are outstanding. They must have spent a lot of time and money on them, and Cecil B. DeMille helped make the special effects come alive in the environment. The worst has to be the dialogue. I know, there's a lot of things I hate about this film, but when one of the main character says that "He's to manly to hiccup", you can tell the dialogue sucks. Overall, I really do hate this film. It put's special effects before story, without even giving us a unique story to begin with. Not recommended. 1/5.
January 26, 2012
I can never get into this movie.
January 4, 2012
One of the best movies about Cleopatra I ever seen...
Super Reviewer
November 28, 2011
For my money the best cinematic Cleo, baby, Cleo, and the reason is the sensuous, languorous smoky turn given by Claudette Colbert who, along with the ever conspicuous DeMille, conspire to seduce us into sublime and decadent oblivion ... and it doesn't seem as bad as my preacher says it is. Opulence that makes Liz come off as a frumpy housewife at a golf club social.
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