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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Julius Caesar (1970)

Fearful that Julius Caesar (John Gielgud) will turn Rome into a monarchy with himself as dictator, a group of political conspirators lead by Brutus (Jason Robards) plot and carry out his assassination. JULIUS CAESAR is quite possibly the most accessible of Shakespeare's plays and with its Roman setting and its potential for spectacle and action (the battle at Philippi), I'm surprised there haven't been more film versions. The most famous one is the 1953 Joseph L. Mankiewicz B&W film (in which Gielgud played Cassius rather than Caesar). This one is in color and wide screen but it can't disguise its low budget which hinders any attempt at spectacle though it is more cinematic than the 1953 movie. The performances are a mixed lot. Charlton Heston as Marc Antony, Gielgud, Richard Johnson (very good) as Cassius and Diana Rigg as Portia all have Shakespearean training and experience and do quite well. Less so Richard Chamberlain as Octavius Caesar, Robert Vaughn as Casca and in the film's worst performance, Robards who doesn't seem to have a clue as to what he's doing! His monotone line readings are so deliberate that it's almost as if wanted to sabotage the film. Dispassionately directed by Stuart Burge. With Christopher Lee, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough and Alba.

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