Restored to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this super-gargantuan historical drama from 1963 may not be much of a movie, but it delivers Hollywood spectacle of the sort we’ll never see again. There’s not a dot of CGI in it, instead there are thousands of real-life extras, and the ancient world is recreated before our eyes. Elizabeth Taylor’s central turn also exemplifies star wattage from another era. Beyond mere acting, it’s a sort of hyper-presence sustaining moments like the entrance into Rome atop a giant golden sphinx larger than an IMAX theatre. Truly, you don’t know the meaning of the word ‘diva’ until you’ve seen this, but she does overshadow everything else, which rambles on and on as Rex Harrison’s acid-tongued donnish Caesar and then Richard Burton’s shouty ham of a Mark Anthony tangle with her cunning daughter of Isis. Planned as two three-hour epics then chopped down to a still daunting four hours, it lacks a defining purpose, but on the big screen it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for good and ill.
Cast and crew