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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Underrated Drama in the History of TV,, 21 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Caesars - The Complete Series (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
About 6 years ago I began watching the HBO/BBC co-production ROME and I enjoyed it so much that I started reading about ancient Rome, watching documentaries about ancient Rome and buying anything available on DVD about ancient Rome.
The Caesars was one of the DVD's I bought with no knowledge and very little expectation. It was about £4 so I couldn't really lose.
When I first started to watch it I had to laugh at the 60's haircuts and facial hair - even the Roman ladies seemed to be wearing Chiffon style dresses in some scenes. The sets were cheap and wobbly. The film was grey and crackling. The sound was terrible. I carried on watching more in anticipation of laughter than any real appreciation. Like when something is so bad it's actually good?

After a very short time I adjusted to the visual and sonic standards of 1960's Granada Television and began to concentrate on the actual drama unfolding. I watched all six episodes from start to finish, then started them from the beginning again.
WHAT AN ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC SERIES! Over the previous six years I have watched The Caesars at least 25 times yet certain parts never fail to grip me. Sejanus' final defeat in front of the Senate. Tiberius' bitter victory and all consuming guilt.
It is, quite simply, superb television of a standard that is unheard of.
Far superior to I, Claudius, with the British thesp's hamming their way through and far more longer lasting than the quick paced enjoyment of HBO's Rome (which had an abysmal second series).

I learned more about the Julio-Claudians - an utterly powerful yet totally dysfunctional family - than any book could have introduced to me.
Since then I have read several books about these same characters and I now doubt that Caligula was nearly as bad or mad has portrayed in this (or any) TV show but my impression of Tiberius, started by the wonderful Andre Morrell (in this - The Caesars) has stayed firm and I reject the image of him broadcast in I, Claudius, as a nasty and incompetent, sexual deviant. The nuanced portrayal of a man of great intelligence and compassion who has been destroyed by the power at his finger tips is a bravura performance that I have never seen equalled on television OR film.

This series has no battle scenes or special effects. It is the type of intelligence based introspective TV play that has become a victim to dumbed down expectations.

Finally, just to emphasize the point I wish to make, I often dream that, should I come into extreme wealth due to a lottery win or a Eureka idea, I would commission a remake of The Caesars. The writing would stay exactly the same. I would simply spend more on the sets and sounds and costumes to bring it up to more modern expectations. As for the actors I believe it would be impossible to replace Andre Morrell in the role of Tiberius and I wouldn't know where to start.
But it's something I would deeply love to do.

So if you haven't seen The Caesars, it's high time you did, and if you have seen it I hope this review reminds you how much you enjoyed it and maybe prompts you to watch it again.
It's a gem of TV viewing that deserves much wider recognition.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Dec 2013 13:01:05 GMT
Bedinog says:
Re Tiberius portrayals, the late George Baker I think had a difficult job with a difficult part-Tiberius has a mixed reputation depending on whose account you read. From memory, his portrayal is initially a staid, thoughtful type, gradually giving way to a bitter, suspicious, disillusioned tyrant after suffering many hard knocks over 40 odd years.
Andre Morell was a wonderful performer-greatly underrated in my view. I have not seen The caesrs but can well imagine a powerful performance. You probably know he played the supporting role of Sextus, the commander of the Roman garrison of Jerusalem in Ben Hur. He's only on screen for around 10mins discussing matters with his successor, Messala, but his performance is memorable.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2013 22:53:15 GMT
I knew I'd seen him in Toga and Sandals somewhere else (but I thought it was Quo Vadis he'd been in).
You MUST watch The Caesars.
It's tragic that anyone has missed it but, for someone of your tastes and interests, it is too much.

If you lived anywhere near me I would lend you my copy.

It is very inexpensive.
Treat yourself for Xmas
(and then you can avoid any of the low brow, populist drivel that is the mainstay of all Yuletide scheduling).

George Baker was a good actor but, to my tastes, the cast of I Claudius, threw all thespian restraint away and it became an overly dramatic and self indulgent piece of English 'luvvies' TV theatre. I've never been a particular fan of Derek Jacobi OR Brian Blessed.
The Caesars, however, never allows the acting to eclipse the actual story. Restraint is used and all aspects of the creative process co exist wonderfully.
Plus the actual history isn't disregarded as the director and his cast take turns to rewrite the events in the hunt for more tension or a better twist in the tale (just watch any of Mel Gibson's 'history' films to understand me).

Again I say:
YOU MUST WATCH THIS SERIAL.
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