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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Julius Caesar (1953)

In Rome 44 B.C., fearing the powers given to Julius Caesar (Louis Calhern) will make him Rome's dictator, a group of conspirators lead by Brutus (James Mason) plot to assassinate him. Joseph L. Mankiewicz is perhaps the most literate of film directors having directed such dialogue driven classics as ALL ABOUT EVE, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER and SLEUTH. Therefore it should come as no surprise then that his adaptation of Shakespeare's play is presented in a straight forward manner with very few concessions to cinema, a notable exception being the attack on Cassius' (John Gielgud) troops. As such, it's a decent film though lacking the imagination Olivier, Welles and Branagh brought to their filmed Shakespeare projects. Fortunately, the acting is fine and usually more than that. A controversial choice at the time, Marlon Brando makes for a sly, nuanced Marc Antony while James Mason brings a dignified weightiness to his Brutus. There's a superb score by Miklos Rozsa to boot. The large cast includes Deborah Kerr, Greer Garson, Edmond O'Brien, Edmund Purdom, George Macready, Michael Pate, Alan Napier, John Hoyt, Michael Ansara, Douglass Dumbrille, Rhys Williams and John Doucette.

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