Friday, May 02, 2008

The Fall of the Roman Empire gets collector's edition treatment

"The Fall of the Roman Empire is the second entry in The Miriam Weinstein Collection. (The first was El Cid.) It's one of those, big sprawling epics with an incredible cast: Alec Guinness, Sophia Loren, Omar Sharif, James Mason, Christopher Plummer and Stephen Boyd. Whew.

DVD extras include a copy of the original 1961 souvenir pogram, production stills, and a bunch of featurettes about the Madrid location shoot, the Hollywood version vs. actual history, the theatrical trailer and more.

You remember the story. Boy meets girl. Boy is slated to rule the empire. Boy loses both empire and girl. Boy kills her insane brother, rescues her from certain death, renounces the throne and escapes to live happily ever after while the empire collapses. Well, it’s not your typical love story.

The Fall of the Roman Empire is an action-packed epic tale, beautifully filmed, with lavish costumes, sets, and thousands of extras - the sort of grandiose undertaking which is now done using CGI. The funeral of Marcus Aurelius was one of the more impressive scenes, and the basis of the plot is the struggle to see who will succeed him. His son Commodus (Christopher Plummer) is an increasingly crazy but clever man who outmaneuvers Livius (Stephen Boyd), his competition for the throne, at every turn - in large part because Livius is the plodding, honorable, nice guy who can be relied upon to act a certain way. Lucilla (Sophia Loren) isn’t a pawn on the chessboard, she’s a real player in all the intrigue.

The action is continuous, and while enjoyable, some of it seems pointless - the chariot race was a pleasure to watch but didn’t move the plot forward. Still, the movie progresses steadily toward the inevitable, and the journey is captivating. The battle scenes were very well done, and considering that this movie lacked all of the technological tricks of today’s epic films, the film is truly phenomenal. For fans of the movie Gladiator, The Fall of the Roman Empire is a must-see."

No comments: