Wednesday, February 15, 2017

By the Gods!

Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) salutes Caesar after being rolled out of a carpet in CLEOPATRA (1934)

I have mixed feelings about this gorgeous looking film. Every penny of this big budgeted film is on screen. But the pacing is glacially slow. I love long atmospheric films but this one is a bit on the boring side. It was a huge hit back in the day but its success didn't spur a plethora of other PEPLUM inspired productions. The early 1930s were really devoid of these types of films.

6 comments:

Scott Ochiltree said...

For once I must disagree with you. In my view this is by far the best of all the Cleopatara movies. Great cast, reasonably accurate historically, and not too long.

Anonymous said...

Cleopatra actually wasn't a big budget film. After DeMille's previous film, Four Frightened People, flopped at the box office, Paramount made him cut corners on Cleopatra. Some of the sets and costumes are left over from Sign of the Cross and the battle scenes include footage from DeMille's silent version of The Ten Commandments. The one scene where no expense was spared was the impressive barge sequence. I think it is a wonderful movie.

Richard Svensson said...

I think pre-code Peplums, including silent movies, are some of the best-looking examples of their genre. The black & white photography only adds an extra dash of atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

First class movie,for me best version of C.leopatra

PEPLUM Cinema said...

CLEOPATRA wasn't a modest budgeted film by any means. Just the lavish costumes cost more than an average film.

TCM : 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."

Was it costly as CLEOPATRA (1963)? No but it had a bigger budget than an average production of the 1930s. Recycling sets and costumes from other films, like this one did with SIGN OF THE CROSS, is pretty much standard procedure with these kinds of productions. Even THE TEN COMMANDMENTS used sets, costumes and props from THE EGYPTIAN so this is done not necessarily just to cut corners but to re-use stuff that can only be seen in specific productions.

I didn't say I didn't like this film. I like it but I find it slow and stagey (which is normal for films of that period). The dialogue ain't that great too.

Anonymous said...

Most of the DeMille books would disagree with you about the budget. Bigger budget than average for a movie at this time as you said but not big by DeMille standards. Because Cleopatra was a big money maker for Paramount they did give DeMille carte blanche on his next film The Crusades but it flopped and that was it for DeMille and ancient history until Samson and Delilah.

None of The Egyptian sets were reused for The Ten Commandments although Paramount did buy some
costumes (for extras) and props from Fox.