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omnigadrum (Troon, Scotland)

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Five Daughters - Complete Series ( 5 Daughters ) ( Five Daughters - Complete Series (3 Episodes) )
Five Daughters - Complete Series ( 5 Daughters ) ( Five Daughters - Complete Series (3 Episodes) )

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, tenderly constructed drama, delivered with decency and dignity., 26 Jun. 2016
A televised dramatisation of the murder of five young women in Ipswich in 2006, it avoids any sensationalism or titilation, avoids falling into the trap of simply telling a police-centred story of the hunt for a 'serial killer'. The killer, in fact, is almost an irrelevance - the production extends to him no oxygen of publicity, no notoriety, no glamour. It's a tale of five young women and their families and friends.
The production is non-judgemental. It explores the poverty, the hopelessness, the helplessness of people marginalised by heroin culture. Five young women - somebody's wee girl, somebody's daughter, somebody's child, somebody's sister, somebody's friend. Somebody, yet only made a public somebody by death and a press feeding frenzy looking for sensation, if not salacious exploitation. There were many who would moralise, this film tries to extend to the women decency and understanding.
Five young women who were murdered because some twisted, anonymous male had been able to dehumanise them, see them simply as objects, as whores, as 'junkies', as worthless, as human detritus to used like a condom then thrown away.
Great cast, well scripted, sensitively directed - no glamour, no gratuitous sex, a commentary on the realities of urban life in the 21st century. "Five Daughters" contrasts with the headline press coverage of the time, branding the women with labels - "prostitutes", "found naked", etc. Sensation sells, it doesn't explain - nothing can explain why anyone should feel he had the right to end the life of any one of these women. Five daughters, all with dreams, all with hopes, all trapped.
The production cuts together TV film from the time as the world's press descended on Ipswich, lured by the prospect of sensation. It's the press who are on trial, who are being held to question, not simply the murderer. Does peddling sensation stimulate murder, convince some perverse nobody that here is an opportunity to find celebrity? The press, here, are hardly portrayed sympathetically - they appear more like parasites invited to a tragic feast.
The press are sneering, contemptuous of the police - it's the "sticks", it's a small local force, surely these are just country yokels, they're not a "Premiere Division force", they can't have the sophistication of London coppers, it must be their fault so many women are being killed! The film presents the police as stretched, but human, determined to do their job well, and concerned to act decently for both the dead and their families.
This is a very moving, very decent - very decent - look at sudden violent death. One of the best pieces of drama on British television for years, the tragedy is that it's not a fiction, that five young women had to die to inspire it, five innocent young women.

Survivors - Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1975]
Survivors - Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1975]
Dvd ~ Denis Lill
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £17.45

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There will always be an England, 4 April 2016
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A series which has aged markedly - by Series 3 we have characters waxing lyrical about the wonders of homeopathy, confusing that mumbo-jumbo with herbal medicine and the need to find replacements for the Big Pharma produced drugs of (what was then) the 20th century. It's decidedly 1970s, decidely pre-Thatcher, decidedly post-60s, but with a legacy of hippy and New Age spiritualism.
A sudden plague wipes out all but one in five thousand - the characters eventually rationalise this. The credits suggest it is some chemical weapon spillage by some Oriental gentleman who has a relationship with Moscow and the Communist regime. It becomes almost a Ronald Reagan, George W.Bush ... or Donald Trump vision of North Korea and the Evil Empire, etc. Fortunately, there are a few in England who survive (1-in-5000), while the rest of the world seems to have been completely eradicated, apart from a few no-hopers who hang on in, scavenging.
It's very English. It is very, very English. It's very bourgeois. OK, we get a couple of prominent Welsh accents, and we hear the odd Scots voice, and we get the odd, Northern character (bit uncivilised, trouble down t'pit, but, eh lad, heart of gold), but, overwhelmingly, plumb Home Counties accents. It's very English - and no hint that the Celts might get uppity. I mean, the IRA were bombing London around the time this was made. Scots and Welsh were voting for nationalist candidates. No room for this - it's all sun will never set on the British Empire stuff.
The quest is for a leader in whom people can trust. Our cadre of heroes bounce from one small community to another, attempt to set up their own (variously styled as a kibbutz or commune), but the battles are about leadership. There are questions about eugenics and fascism, about allowing people to participate, but ultimately it's all about egos and a display of values like the mating displays of birds of paradise.
OK, so watching a group of people set up a working farm and their five year struggle to make it work ... well, might make for tedious reality TV ("I'm a Survivor, Get Me Into Here"), but TV drama? So we get shoot outs and bad guys - and action which is more Keystone Cops than Rambo.
They obviously had a decent budget for the series, but not a vast one. The big scenes - those with a cast of several - are often quite clumsily staged. A lot of the acting is, well, wooden ... and, in a couple of instances, that's an insult to wood. We get a lot of future TV stars making little cameo appearances. But the scripts are a bit repetitive, a bit conservative. Oh, there's a genuine concern in asking the question, what happens if a complex modern society faces a sudden, catastrophic pandemic or disaster which wipes out a significant part of the population? That's a question a lot of people were asking in a Cold War era - and attempts to televise dramas about nuclear survival were rapidly strangled by the powers that be. Somehow, plague seems more survivable that nuclear holocaust - and less politically threatening, because, surely, nobody could accuse Western politicians of causing an apocalyptic plague (note my remarks about the opening credits). In a post-nuclear holocaust those left living would soon be praying for death - following a plague, survivors might hope to rebuild.
Idealistic in places - but clawingly bourgeois, and clawingly English in its sense of deference to a natural leader who will inevitably emerge, sword in the stone like. The three series - and by three, the themes are largely washed out and the episodes get progressively tedious - keep replaying a number of crucial themes about cooperation and the role of the sexes and a plunge back into medievalism (from religious fanatics to rebuilding a medieval economy), but it's ultimately quite simplistic. How do you ask serious political and economic questions in a TV drama? Does anyone seriously believe that if the real questions were being asked that BBC TV would actually have been allowed to air them?
An interesting piece of TV history - first series is worth watching ... it gets repetitive and laboured as it moves into series 2.

You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband: Discovering the Keys to Marital Success
You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband: Discovering the Keys to Marital Success
by Darian B. Cooper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1.0 out of 5 stars So glad I'm a male, at least I can always blame the women, 10 Dec. 2015
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Don't be deluded into believing that this book might actually offer any genuine, comprehensive or useful marriage guidance advice, or might explore the nature of happiness and harmony within a heterosexual relationship. This is an American tome, Christian fundamentalist, and probably about as useful as a condom in an abortion clinic. It's religious garbage at its clawing worst.
The book preaches. It preaches one message - men are god-made to rule in the home and in the world, it is the duty of a wife to be submissive and show humility, to make herself subservient to his needs and desires. If only all women would realise this! Unfortunately, in the real world, it's the 21st century, and maybe it's time to recognise that women have the same human rights as men.
So, a lot of preachy verbiage which comes down to the golden rule - to have a happy husband, the wife must be submissive. The author doesn't actually offer advice to unmarried couples - presumably god would be offended by those who fail to get hitched properly. The book is aimed at doormats - it's basically a guide to becoming a doormat.
Let the god do the work - this god has instructed that women be submissive, that they be domestic slaves, bowing to the husband's ego and demands. Submission, apparently, is the god's preferred form of female behaviour. The husband provides the leadership and protective love, it is the duty of the women to respect him and his role. Eve, after all, was created from Adam to save him from loneliness - well, that's Evolution disposed of. The Fall was down to Eve - everything that's gone wrong in the world since is down to a woman failing to be submissive and obedient, and that's history and social science written off as irrelevant, that's all the political struggles consigned to the bin.
Fortunately, god loves us and wants us to return to fellowship with him. The wife has a duty to save herself and her husband from the weakness of carnal flesh - I take this to mean materialism, petty self-interests like career, education, political debate, individuality, etc. The wife needs to praise her husband's manliness and his helpfulness round the house. That way he'll continue to offer loving protection, that way he won't be tempted away by carnal needs. God gave him his masculine qualities, so praise them - if you don't, it's your god's judgement you're challenging. Remember to praise you husband, remember that even unasked for advice could be seen as criticism. Praise him!
Pray and your god will answer and solve your problems. Reassure your husband he comes first in your life. Stregthen his ego and you will help him enhance his manly qualities of independence, confidence and courage. Be assured that a man will rarely seek out another woman while he is the centre of his wife's life! "Sex is seldom the primary reason for a man's promiscuity", the author advises us (it's the wife's fault if the man is sleeping around). Be available for him, dress for him, cater to his sexual needs, anticipate them, meet them enthusiastically and tirelessly. And, whatever you do, don't put the children first. Your husband must always come first.
When reading balderdash like this book, I struggle to convince myself that the author is not suffering the sorts of delusions which might result in institutional care, that she seriously considers this intelligent (and intelligible) advice. This is a book about how to wear a straitjacket which your husband will find sexy. Remind yourself, this is the 21st century. If you need to read a book about saving your marriage, go find one which makes sense! This is simply trash.

by Robin Cook
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Dire-ivative, 11 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Invasion (Paperback)
Another review compares this to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", which is precisely what I was doing by the end of the first couple of chapters. Aliens invade the Earth, releasing little black discs which infect and transform humans into proto-aliens - they don't use organic pods to reproduce, they use advanced technology. Fortunately, a daring band of individuals recognise that something is going wrong and come up with a solution to save the planet ... which seems to rely a little on H.G.Wells and "War of the Worlds".
It's quite neatly written - it won't strain your intellect or your glasses, it achieves a nice, thriller pace. The story line, however, is juvenile, despite the dressing of organic chemistry and physics. The characters are straight off the back of a corn flakes packet. All in all, it's not merely derivative, it's simplistic.

Ex Machina [DVD] [2015]
Ex Machina [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Domhnall Gleeson
Price: £5.00

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A break from hoovering, 2 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Ex Machina [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
Probably warrants an average rating of 3 stars only because there are some very pretty scenes in it. Hailed as an exploration of the nature of Artificial Intelligence, the storyline is utterly predictable ... and dire. It really does strive to be clever - there are spells of dialogue which sound like a Wikipedia entry explaining some of the philosophical questions about AI. The overall sense is a claustrophobic drama - it's very difficult to actually like or sympathise with any of the characters.
Genius programmer wins competition to spend time with the man who has redefined the nature of technology - his software is the world leader ... in fact, has a near monopoly of the world's operating systems. Genius programmer is to spend a week in an idyllic setting, but he's there for a reason. He's to interact with the entrepreneur's latest 'toy' ... an all-too-human robot. And the action and dialogue are mechanical.
It's dire ... and, despite the usual glowing Amazon reviews, your best guide to this movie is to look at the number being sold as "Used - Like New ... watched once". Watching once is about as much as I could take ... in fact, I took a break midway to make a meal, do some hoovering (the hoovering was more entertaining), and psyche myself up to enduring the second half. Dire, but pretty.

An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
by M.K. Gandhi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Want to learn about Gandhi? Don't start here., 16 July 2013
Gandhi described his life as a series of experiments in truth, and his autobiography does take on a serial format - you start at the beginning, you progress to a final chapter. Autobiographies can and do fall into this serial trap - they recount episodes, they do not offer a critical evaluation, do not necessarily give any real or accurate insight into the emergence of the thinking or philosophy of a man as significant in 20th century history as Gandhi.

What is missing from this Autobiography is an historical perspective - siting the man in the India of his childhood, the England of his legal education, the South Africa of his emergence, and back again to the India he would help transform. What is missing is a critical appraisal of Gandhi's development and role.

Instead, we get a mixture of the mundane and the simplistic. He describes his angst at being encouraged to try meat over a one year period by a friend. He is coy about his sexual experiences, embarrassed by his marriage at 13 to a 13 year old girl. He talks about visiting a prostitute, he talks of his horror at scuffing someone's top hat. He portrays a young man completely at sea and addrift from others.

For a man of his time, this is perhaps honest, but it lacks depth of explanation and exploration. It is clawingly coy. You sense he struggles to understand people, to form relationships, you sense that, because of this, he is reluctant to introspect, certainly publicly. He is a man clearly absorbed in his own psyche but - because he lacks insight into others - he has limited perspective. He finds it easier to understand causes and ideas than individuals.

You sense a man who has problems fitting in - he hurries to buy the appropriate Western clothes when he arrives in England. On the one hand he seems desperate to conform, on the other he can be steadfast in his beliefs. He may struggle to fit in, he has no problem standing out. He is pursuing truth, he wants others - particularly in the West - to understand the truth of empire and racism, to get an honest perspective on their role and the hypocrisy of their lifestyles. But still, you just wonder how honest he is with himself.

Clearly, Gandhi has an intellectual and 'spiritual' struggle - he will advocate ascetic, non-materialist principles, but his is a privileged background (although he protests his family was poor). He describes stealing pennies from the servants so he can experiment with cigarettes, he describes accounting for every farthing he spends while studying law. He describes his pursuit of truth - explaining his religion as the pursuit of self-realisation, his deity as the embodiment of 'Truth'. But is this an honest account?

Overall, what you get are edited highlights of an ascetic life. There's an element of rationalising in his account - of smoothing things over so you get a straight line emergence of the man at the end of the book. It's not consciously dishonest, you just suspect it's not entirely honest ... that there are places he'd prefer not to go, or at least prefer to keep to himself.

The writing remains coy - perhaps self-effacing might be a more charitable description. When he describes his thoughts and responses to situations, you do sense he smoothes out the emotions and anguish, delivers a sanitised version of his truth on the matter. You feel you need more background, you need a more critical and clinical evaluation, you need a devil's advocate to get in there and argue with him. The book becomes one dimensional.

As an insight into Gandhi's thinking, perhaps the Autobiography does make some contribution, but, if you'll forgive the pun, you do wish there was more meat to it. If you want to find out about Gandhi and his role in the 20th century, read a biography or two, read up on the histories, come to the man more obliquely than this volume allows. The writing, here, is dated; it is idiosyncratic, it is just a touch quaint, a touch affected. This is a man who would bring iconic, inspirational authority to non-violent protest, a man who would put his freedom and his life on the line for others. The Autobiography seems trite by comparison - seems to lack the passion and energy the man could clearly evoke. An interesting adjunct to your knowledge and understanding once you've read a series of boooks on Gandhi's life and times - just don't start here.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2016 7:21 PM GMT

AS/A-Level English Literature: Doctor Faustus Student Text Guide (As/a-Level Student Text Guides)
AS/A-Level English Literature: Doctor Faustus Student Text Guide (As/a-Level Student Text Guides)
by Anne Crow
Edition: Paperback

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent set of notes - don't forget to read the play, 17 Mar. 2010
A word of caution needs to be delivered about all study notes - they won't answer the question for you, they won't pass your exams for you. Read the play in conjunction with them, use the notes to stimulate ideas and questions, not to find answers. Good notes should fuel your enthusiasm as well as your knowledge.

With that caveat safely out of the way, what needs to be said about this AS/A level guide? Well, first of all, it does precisely what it says on the label - it's a guide for 6th year studies at secondary school, and may translate into a useful resource for 1st year university. That's the level it's pitched at. The more sophisticated or prestigious your level of study, the more you will need to supplement these notes with more extensive reading and research.

This volume opens with some 40 pages of background notes on Marlowe, his Canterbury, his life and works, the basics of the Elizabethan theatre, a quick introduction to the Renaissance, magic, the Faust legend, and a critical history of the play's staging. All this is clearly laid out, concise, informative - but don't imagine you've acquired really in-depth knowledge of such a vast range of subjects; this is your starter for 10, enough background to give you an intelligent perspective on the significance and place of the play, enough background for you to build solid foundations for further study.

The book now moves on to 13 pages of scene summaries - a useful set of notes to remind you of the overall structure and dynamic of the work, something you can and will refer to if you're studying the play in any depth. Further pages explore the various characters, themes, imagery, and specific aspects of the play, concluding with a glossary of literary terms and concepts. And the book will conclude with a couple of specimen essay questions.

The real substance of these notes may well lie in the 60 or so pages which explore the structure and body of the play. There's certainly enough here, when taken in conjunction with you reading the text at least twice, to stimulate your knowledge and understanding of the work. Getting to grips with an Elizabethan drama can require a bit of archaeological skill - you have to dig for meaning, understand the play at different levels, and garner enough knowledge to be able to step back and see the big picture.

I have to admit, I am no great fan of 'Doctor Faustus'. Study of the text is best achieved in conjunction with a viewing of the play in performance (and, if you're tempted to watch the Burton film, well, it's interesting, but ...). This book certainly helped me get to grips with the play - it was never going to persuade me to love it - and, taken in conjunction with, say, the York Notes guide and a good, annotated text, this will give you a substantial grounding in Marlowe's play, era, and place in literary/theatrical history. It will not, however, pass your exams for you. And I'm sorry, but I have to repeat that.

And that's, perhaps, excuse to flesh out a final word of warning. You are not the only person to read this study guide (or York Notes, etc.), and your examiner will be well aware of the content and arguments of the various guides on the market. Don't expect to simply regurgitate what you find on the pages of this book and get a significant mark. This is a guide - a good guide book can help you find your way round a strange city, but it won't do the walking for you. Use these guides to get a perspective, find your own vision of the play, and feed your own enthusiasm and ideas by further reading. And, no, I can't guarantee you'll enjoy the play, I surely didn't, but there are aspects of it which intrigued me, and these notes helped me find interests and themes which stimulated my awareness. Overall, they provided me with essential background information and a clearer understanding of the text, and I don't suppose you can ask more than that.

HP ScanJet G2410 Flatbed Scanner
HP ScanJet G2410 Flatbed Scanner

57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definite value for money, 25 Feb. 2010
This is a highly practical and easy to use product - insert CD to load the software, plug in the scanner, connect it to your computer via the USB cable provided and, hey presto, it's up and running in under five minutes (or 15 if, like me, you forget to press the on switch to the rear of the right hand side of the machine): once you realise you need to switch it on, it works like a charm.

Within an afternoon I'd scanned in scores of old photos and uploaded many of them to Facebook and other outlets. Picture quality is excellent, the software to enhance and improve upon colour, brightness, contrast, etc., works simply, and you can readily re-size and re-orientate your photos.

Probably not the fastest scanner on the market - but you could pay an awful lot more money for little in the way of improvement. This is, after all, an exceptionally economical tool (I bought mine purely and simply because I wanted to transfer a load of photo prints to disc, and beyond, and it has proved more than satisfactory on that score).

Drawbacks - the only one I can discover, so far, is that the screen seems to become very greasy when you scan in photos. It's worth keeping a duster on hand and giving the screen a good wipe down before you load the next batch of pictures. I also tried scanning in a picture still in its frame (and thus behind glass) - you can get a bit of glare and reflection from the glass, so better to remove pictures from frames before scanning).

So far I've only scanned photos - I've not tried slides or negatives, etc., but don't foresee any problems with these.

On the plus side, not only extremely economical, but extremely fast delivery - I opted for 'free home delivery' via Amazon when I ordered my machine late on Sunday night ... the machine was delivered Wednesday afternoon. Excellent value, excellent service, and a robust, easy to use and decidedly portable machine (you don't need to keep it permanently on your desk, it plugs in and unplugs rapidly, and will fit in a drawer when not needed). Very definitely very pleased with my purchase.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2010 8:25 PM BST

CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA by George Bernard Shaw - 1945 - Vivien Leigh - DVD
CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA by George Bernard Shaw - 1945 - Vivien Leigh - DVD
Dvd ~ Claude Rains

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shaw and Tell, 22 Feb. 2010
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The density and sophistication of the dialogue mark this out as a theatrical production transferred to film - there are few breaks in the dialogue, few silences, little scope for special effects or distractions. It's a film to be watched with intense concentration, an actors' and a playwright's film rather than a cinematographic extravaganza.

Regarded as the most expensive film yet made in Britain (1945), it suffered the interruption of German bombing and necessary delays following Vivienne Leigh's miscarriage. It suffered from director Pascal's need for realism - he sent to Egypt for sand to ensure he got the right colour! An epic, yes, but not one which suffers from too much glitz or show. What comes across, vividly, is a sense of scale - you do get the impression of the vastness of Egypt and the scale of empire, and not just a sense that the sets are huge and elaborate. In 1945, the cinema-going audience knew all about the scale of Egypt, the size of the desert, knew the way from Egypt to Italy and beyond - they'd all followed the epic story of the Desert War for years.

The film's dialogue, of course, is Shavian - rich, terse, comedic, intelligent, with just a nod to Shakespeare. You have to listen - the cast deliver their lines at times with machinegun pace, and the wit, social commentary, and morality come at you like sledgehammers. The settings are exotic, some of the costumes a trifle bizarre ... but Leigh looks elegant and regal throughout. And somehow or other, Pascal contrives convincingly naturalistic images and settings.

You have immediate doubts. Claude Rains was a fine actor, but as Caesar? As a man of action, a front line soldier? He wanders across the desert and talks to the Sphinx ... to discover Cleopatra hiding there. Enter Vivienne Leigh, without fanfare or ceremony. And she is entrancing. She appears as the 18 year old Cleopatra, childlike and manipulative in her demeanour.

Leigh is enrapturing, utterly convincing in her performance of a teenager learning to and yearning to become queen, terrified of the Roman arrival, terrified of her responsibilities, yet greedy for power and a chance to get one over on her 10 year old brat of a brother, Ptolemy (who happens also to be her husband, if only in name). She sees the Romans as barbarians, she appreciates that if she is to contend with Caesar, if she is to survive Caesar's arrival, she has to grow in maturity, authority, and wit.

Leigh oozes sophistication, elegance, and a sex appeal which is made more intense because of its understatement. No lavish exposure of flesh, no passionate love making. Just a radiantly beautiful woman with poise and refinement, she glides across the sets dynamically yet with an economy of movement. She enriches every scene in which she appears. And she grows in the part - the youthful queen transforms herself into a monarch.

Shaw characterises Cleopatra, and Leigh plays her as a young woman who must mature early and accept the leadership of her people, even if this means winning the hearts and minds of Roman conquerors. There is no harlot here, no witch, no voluptuous beauty seeking to use men with her bodily attractions. No this is a comparative innocent, caught up in a fast-moving world, a young woman raised to be queen. She has to cultivate her intellect, her political skills, and her sexuality if she is to survive and prosper. This is a woman to be admired.

Cleopatra learns quickly. Besieged for six months, she becomes Caesar's mistress (we assume). The carpet sequence has an entirely different role and meaning in this exploration of Cleopatra - and it gives Stewart Grainger the opportunity to steal the scene, maybe steel the scene, and display his athleticism. Leigh does not flaunt herself emerging from the carpet, rather she is demurely revealed, a confident and assertive young woman who can yet defer to her land's conqueror. She does not flirt with men, she acts as herself. She will become Caesar's pupil more than his mistress. She will learn to be a politician, to be a leader, to be ruthless and determined.

Leigh makes the transition physically - her posture, her movements, her expression, her voice change as she grows from teenage girl into mature queen. Innocent child becomes scheming murderess. She has strength, she has resilience, she has courage, she has intelligence, she has cunning.

And, again, the drama is intense, the dialogue rich and compelling. It's a film which must be watched as a play, a film which demands the audience's concentration and involvement.

Rains, meanwhile, grows in the role. He appears pale and effete in the opening shots, but he will emerge as a man with commanding presence and authority. The film will end with his departure for Rome. Leigh makes a final entrance ... alone, dressed in mourning, without finery or entourage or fanfare, but astonishingly regal and elegant. It's a riveting 'entrance'. And Caesar's farewell gift? He promises to send her Mark Anthony.

No love scenes, no hint that Cleopatra is carrying his child, no prospect of her entering Rome, no hint that she is hated in Rome. History is sacrificed to the demands of the drama. But maybe Cleopatra is spared the taunt of whore and witch, of manipulator of men and user of empires.

If the only version of 'Cleopatra' you've ever seen is the Burton / Taylor extravaganza, then this is essential viewing. Leigh and Shaw demonstrate what can be done with the role - they demonstrate that this is a role which requires genius and sophistication, that it is not simply a glossy, exotic vehicle for a Hollywood star but a part which requires exploration by an extraordinary writer and actress.

The extras provided with the film are superficial - a few potted biographies, some still shots, the film's trailer, and a little appreciation of the quality of the restoration. Picture and sound quality are excellent throughout, even if some of the colours are a tad too intense. But Leigh is a revelation, and Rains hypnotic. A wonderfully enjoyable production worth four and half stars at least.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2010 1:37 PM GMT

Cleopatra [DVD] [1934] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Cleopatra [DVD] [1934] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £19.12

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A radiant Colbert and a model for Burton, 19 Feb. 2010
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DeMille was persuaded to make 'Cleopatra' following the commercial and critical failure of his previous Colbert film ('Four Frightened People'); he was, it seems, advised to go make an historical epic, and make it sexy. This was at a time when the Hays Code was being introduced to cut out any morally questionable film making (no sex, no gory violence, nothing which undermined the virtues of marriage, etc.) The audience could still be titillated by historical epics, however - there was, after all, something uplifting about delivering classics.

'Cleopatra', here, is very much a vehicle for Colbert. She had had a rapid rise to stardom. A former Broadway actress, she benefited from the arrival of the 'talkies' - Hollywood scoured Broadway for stage actors who had commercial looks and voices, who could deliver a story on film. And Colbert made an immediate hit with her very sexy role in DeMille's 'Sign of the Cross'. By the time this film was released, she'd won an Oscar for 'It Happened One Night'. She was distinctly hot property, and she knew it.

Colbert is undoubtedly the star, but the film is sold as Cecil B. DeMille's 'Cleopatra'. DeMille, after all, was a superstar in his own right. This is not Shakespeare's 'Anthony and Cleopatra' or 'Julius Caesar', though it does owe much to these; it is not Shaw's 'Caesar and Cleopatra'. This is a film targeted at an American audience, delivered in American English, without any of the classical allusions or references of Shakespeare, and delivered in a language and style comprehensible to a mass audience.

Stylistically, it is pure 1930's. It may have Egyptian and Roman subjects, but the clothing and set designs, the hairstyles and images are all 1930's interpretations. The film roughly follows the historical story of Caesar, Cleopatra, Anthony, and Octavian, but without the baggage which might confuse the audience - Cleopatra does not have a child by Caesar, or children by Anthony, she is not portrayed as hated by the Roman people, there is no cultural struggle between Egypt and Rome, or between Egyptian gods and Roman ones, sophisticated political analysis of Roman and Egyptian kingship is absent. It's a love story, delivered in the exotic imagery and imagination of a DeMille movie. And, yes, it's dumbed down.

Caesar arrives to conquer Egypt. He will find himself seduced by Cleopatra. After his assassination, she will seduce Mark Anthony, the real love of her life. They are, however, doomed lovers. Fundamental plot, graphically delivered.

Colbert is radiant. Compared to the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor portrayal, Colbert is animated, energetic, dynamic, and deliciously sexy. She is far more convincing in the role than Taylor. Oh, DeMille clearly constructed the film as a vehicle for her - he gives her acting talent full rein ... she plays romantic comedy, she plays drama, she plays tragedy, she has her highs, she has her lows, beautifully pictured and framed throughout.

She enjoys an excellent supporting cast: Warren William as Caesar has real gravitas, and a chiseled granite face which looks like a sculpture; Henry Wilcoxon in turn cuts a ludicrous and a dominant Anthony - it's easy to believe that his image would act as a model for Burton, thirty years later; and there are beautifully judged performances by C.Aubrey Smith, Joseph Schildkraut, and Gertrude Michael. A strong cast allowed to play to their strengths.

We get lots of dancing girls, lots of spectacle. Well, what do you expect, it's DeMille. This is still early days - film making is still learning to adjust to the talkies and the use of sound: there are long periods of visual action without dialogue (on the assumption that audiences wanted to see a film rather than watch and listen to dialogue), there are some patches of heavily stylised and exaggerated acting reminiscent of stage or silent performances, and the pace of the film is relentlessly driven along by DeMille to ensure that the audience doesn't get bored.

DeMille frames his actors beautifully - the photography is no less exotic or colourful for being in black and white. The print quality is acceptable - it's a bit grainy at times, but contrast is excellent, and it is still a visual joy. Sound quality is fine - I didn't notice any crackling or distortion.

There are some extras offered up with this 75th Anniversary Edition - little 10 minute appreciations of Colbert, DeMille, and the Hays Code, plus the original trailer, and a commentary on the film by one F.X.Feeney. The commentary is interesting in places, but I was left feeling a more sophisticated appraisal might have served the production better.

All in all, a highly enjoyable and rewarding film to watch, the drawback for British audiences being that (at time of writing), it was only available as a Region 1 DVD, which might cause some potential viewers problems. Nevertheless, of the various cinematic explorations of Cleopatra, this is perhaps the most entertaining, even though it lacks sophistication in her characterisation, abandons historical accuracy, and simplifies the plot down to the lowest common denominator.
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