I Claudius & Epic That Never Was [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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A truly epic saga of dynastic conflict at the heart of Imperial Rome, I Claudius was the landmark BBC drama series of the 1970s. Originally transmitted as 13 50-minute episodes, the series dramatises the human face of ancient Rome as interpreted by Robert Graves in his two enormously complex novels, I, Claudius and Claudius The God. Derek Jacobi gives one of the greatest television performances ever as Claudius, the appalled chronicler of the decadence, corruption, intrigue and carnage which comes with the absolute power of his ruling family. Augustus (Brian Blessed) is Emperor and Livia (Sian Phillips) his scheming, ambitious wife, Claudius' aunt. By virtue of his stammer and uncontrollable twitches, Claudius passes for a fool, thus escaping the poisonous machinations of Livia, all the while recording the comings and goings of the Imperial household. Events become increasingly frenzied as Caligula (John Hurt playing the tyrant with psychotic fury) bloodily slaughters his way to power, making a senator of his favourite horse along the way. Claudius eventually becomes Emperor himself, and Jacobi is simply magnificent in the intensely moving finale, which is not to overlook the rest of a fine cast, including George Baker, Ian Ogilvy, Christopher Guard, Stratford Johns, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hepton and Patrick Stewart as the murderous Praetorian Guard Captain Sejanus. Inevitably lacking the visual scale of cinematic features such as Ben-Hur, and today looking more studio-bound than ever, I, Claudius remains a television masterpiece of intelligently written and rivetingly intense character drama. --Gary S. Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The bad stuff first: this dates from the time when the BBC used videotape, rather than film. Everything is studio-bound, and all the sets, even the most ambitious, are obviously just that, with multiple shadows. The picture quality is also soft, though the colour isn't too bad. As for the box, it contains precious little about the production: shame on you, BBC.
The good stuff: the artificiality actually helps, as you start to see this as a theatrical production, rather than a realistic one. And as such, it is tremendously gripping, with Graves' words impeccably transferred to the new medium, and a dream cast, with no weak link. Almost immediately you are drawn into the plot (Claudius doesn't actually appear for ages, but you don't care), and you are held until the end. Yes, it really is that good!
The power of this series lay in it's use of small sets, making the intrigue far more personal and believable. Poison dripped from every word, look and gesture of Sian Phillips as Livia. John Hurt was incredibly disturbed & disturbing as Caligula, and Derek Jacobi was amazing as Claudius, surviving when all around fell.
The biggest problem with I Claudius is that the acting and story are so powerful, I often find myself thinking of the actors Roman characters when I see them in other things.
This is a must watch piece of classic BBC drama, with the cream of British acting talent.
The opening words of this extraordinary series are the stuff of legend. Derek Jacobi as the Emperor Claudius, with his limp and his stammer (the yardstick by which all subsequent actorish stammers have been measured) and the remarkable makeup that takes him from old man to young man to old again turns in such a superb performance throughout the eleven episodes that he must be numbered one of the all-time greats in television drama.
The supporting cast is no less impressive - from the deadly Livia of Sian Phillips, the fiercely matriarchal Antonia of Margaret Tyzack (why was she never made a DBE ?) and Brian Blessed's homely, bumbling Augustus Caesar - down through the ranks to the minor roles, what we have here is ensemble playing of the highest quality.
It is deliciously theatrical - mainly because that was how the series was conceived. It could never have been 'Ben Hur' - or any other toga-clad epic with thousands of extras in a sun-drenched location - studio drama was never like that, and it's often a better and more powerful product because of its necessary limitations. 'I, Claudius' begins with a script that is a masterpiece of adaptation. Anyone who has ever ploughed through Robert Graves's original novels (yes, there are two of them, and mighty hefty they are) will realise the Herculean labour undertaken by Jack Pulman (who also adapted the BBC's 'War & Peace') and will have to agree that he did a superb job with extremely exacting material.
The novels contain very little dialogue, with most of what speech there is reported by the narrator, Claudius.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Still a classic after all these years this epic series retains the power to move its audience. Shot entirely on set it has the feel of an extended stage play and for the most part... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Monkey
Can't beat a classic BBC series. Derek Jacobi is superb.Published 28 days ago by Mrs Emilia Fitzgerald
What a show. The first thing I noticed was how young all the leads looked but given when this series aired that's not such a surprise..... Read morePublished 1 month ago by R. A. Caton