Cecil B. DeMille’s incredibly lavish production of Cleopatra has never looked as good as it does on this beautiful DVD, mastered from the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s 35mm restoration. If you already have Universal’s Cecil B. DeMille Collection (released in 2006) you have…
the same transfer, which shows off Victor Milner’s cinematography, Travis Banton’s sexy costumes, and Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson’s elaborate sets to full advantage.
The bonus features on this disc include a brief review of DeMille’s career, including an interview with his granddaughter Cecilia DeMille Presley, an overview of pre-Code movies that also appears on the studio’s Pre-Code Hollywood Collection, and a superficial if celebratory look at the career of Claudette Colbert that has some good observations by such film experts as Richard Jewell and Patricia King Hanson but is disappointingly light on film clips. (It also repeats the story about Colbert only being shot from one side—a tale refuted in a viewing of Torch Singer, which appears in the Pre-Code set.)
The best reason to acquire, or rent, this DVD is to listen to F.X. Feeney’s perceptive remarks on the commentary track. Feeney rattles off the kind of background information you expect, but more importantly he makes cogent, original observations about DeMille’s staging, the actors’ performances, and how the screenplay strikes a middle ground between the Cleopatras dramatized by Shakespeare and Shaw.