Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ancient Egypt brought to life on screen... of a sort...

Don't forget-- just two days until my giveaway for Cleopatra's Daughter and The Heretic Queen comes to a close! You still have plenty of time to enter HERE for a chance to win one of the two signed books!

Today's entry is not meant to be a be-all-end-all of Ancient Egypt in film. I am, after all, only mentioning the few that I have seen. But if, like me, you're still enraptured in the world of Michelle Moran's novel after you finish reading it, then maybe you'll want to check one or two of these out:

HBO's Rome (2007)

This is the best television show ever made.

That being said, there are some historical inaccuracies. Some shady timelines, some characters never aging. The fact that they imply Octavian's mother, Attia, was in love with Marc Antony, and ruled Rome as his mistress. That sort of thing. But it's soooo good. And if you're a history geek like me, you can overlook some problems and fall in love with the amazing detailing instead. The costumes and sets are impeccable because they're real. They are in Rome. The extras are all Romans, and the rest of the actors are a superb, ensemble British cast. It is horribly violent and crude, but then, so was much of Ancient Rome. It's not a show for everyone, but if you can stomach it, I think you'll love it, too.

Cleopatra is, I think, very realistic. She's not exactly pretty (which we are now learning is probably closer to the truth of her physical appearance), but she controls the men with her sexuality and uniquely Ptolemaic confidence. I'm not sure whether I think Cleopatra would have been shorn underneath her wig like this actress is, but I'm sure they had reason to believe it could have happened. Overall, A+ portrayal of Cleo.

Cleopatra (1963)

I don't remember a whole lot of this movie because I've never seen it all at once.

It is almost 5 hours long.

That being said, it has a certain entertainment value that makes it worth viewing. Elizabeth Taylor is at her most beautiful here, which is saying a lot, though whether she resembles anything of the actual Cleopatra is anyone's guess. I'm willing to bet no, but again, I will overlook that inaccuracy in light of good theater. I mean, this is where Liz Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love. That's epic enough in itself! They practically portray their own lives! I'm giving it a B+ for that alone!

Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

Ditto on this, I don't really remember it. Of what I do recall, it's kinda goofy. It's written by George Bernard Shaw, but I don't think the man read just the right history books for this one. And Vivien Leigh is a miscast, I'm sorry to say. I wouldn't exactly recommend this movie, but it has an archival appeal to it. D+ (see, I can't actually fail Vivien Leigh-- that's my problem...)

Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

I looked this movie up on Amazon and it is currently out on DVD under the series "Camp Classics." That sums up this sword-and-sandal epic so well. Joan Collins. Need I say more?

I mean, let's forget historical accuracy altogether here and get right into the story. In the 18th Dynasty, the pharaoh hires a man to build him a labyrinth in his tomb so intricate that no thieves could ever find their way out once inside. While building this masterpiece, he takes as his bride the lovely Joan Collins, a princess with a chip on her shoulder. The princess conspires with her lover to assassinate her controlling husband, but the pharaoh is determined to never let her go... I won't even TELL you the ending, it is that good! I'm serious; the ending has a twist you will NOT see coming, and it turns this around from a cheesefest to kind of a good story. B+/A-!

ETA: Holy crap, William Faulkner wrote the screenplay. What?!?

The Mummy (1999)

Whatever, I threw this in. I LIKE it, okay? The original one is really funny, and while it's not exactly Ancient Egypt, there are enough elaborate crypts and crawlies to satisfy most viewers. Solid B.


  1. You should watch the 1934 Cleopatra with Claudette Colbert by Cecil B. DeMille. I remember a pool of milk being involved.

    Also, Rome was definitely awesome.

  2. I loved Rome. too bad that show got cancelled. It was great and so realistic. I miss it.