Top positive review
Absolutely Outstanding in Every Way
on 7 January 2018
This box set is absolutely outstanding in every way. Lovely presentation in a sturdy box containing 5 discs in nicely designed and well labeled individual cardboard sleeves. Picture and sound quality are good, the aspect ratio is 4:3, which in the case of this production is the original format - the series dates from 1976 and was made for TV in what was then the standard screen format. Subtitles are available for those who may need them. The twelve episodes of the series are contained on four discs (some movie sites list the series as having 13 episodes, this is because the longer pilot, which is presented as one episode here, has been split into two parts for broadcast in some countries; do not fear, the set contains the full series), disc five contains a generous amount of bonus material:
- A 70 minue documentary "The Epic That Never Was" narrated by Dirk Bogarde
- "I, Claudius - A Television Epic" featuring exclusive interviews with cast and director
- Alternative Scenes
- Family Tree
- Scene Selection
The series is based on Robert Graves' historical novel about the life and times of the Roman Emperor Claudius, told from the perspective of the title character. Because of his limp and his unprepossessing appearance, Claudius (Derek Jacobi) is taken for a fool by his contemporaries. This allows him to observe them and their actions closely and share his observations with the audience who through him gain access to the households of Augustus, Caligula, and Nero among other prominent figures in the history of ancient Rome.
The script is excellent and the cast including many greats of British stage and screen acting is quite stellar. Derek Jacobi is wonderful as the seemingly simple, shuffling Claudius, Brian Blessed gives a very enjoyable performance as Augustus, a young John Hurt has great fun with the excesses of Caligula (it's worth buying this for his hugely enjoyable OTT performance alone), Christopher Biggins plays Nero and his performance is quite on a par with that of Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis, Patrick Stewart also appears and is well cast and worth seeing, but it is Sian Phillips who steals the show as Augustus' manipulative wife Livia. She is just too delicious for words as the evil queen bee.
Brilliant series all round, more entertaining than you'd expect of a historical drama. Highly recommended.