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Cleopatra: 75th Anniversary Edition

Cleopatra - Claudette Colbert
YOU’RE IN DE-NILE Egyptian queen Colbert works on Henry Wilcoxon.

A rolled-up rug is placed before Caesar: a gift. Out of it spins this supercool chick with an adorably haughty laugh and more attitude than Diablo Cody. If you never knew Claudette Colbert as a sexpot—she also made It Happened One Night and Imitation of Life in 1934—then brace yourself for Cleopatra. The epic itself, digitally restored, is kind of a snooze, with Cecil B. DeMille’s fixed tableaux getting in the way of emotional engagement. (It pretty much ta-blows.) But Colbert is never not magnetic, a slinky presence with hilarious, elbowy body language.

Universal’s “Backlot” edition includes many enjoyable goodies. You get three miniature lobby cards (posters that old-time theaters displayed in glass cases). A featurette on Colbert includes notorious footage of her bathing nude in “ass’s milk” for DeMille’s 1932 The Sign of the Cross. Best is a minidoc on DeMille himself, obviously revered as a director but also an on-set terror, who immortalized his fearsome rep in promotional materials that show him berating a $10-a-day extra. Yes, he’s wearing thigh-high boots.—Joshua Rothkopf

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