Julius Caesar (1953)

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Joseph L. Mankiewicz directs Marlon Brando, James Mason and Louis Calhern in this stodgy adaptation of Shakespeare’s epic Roman Empire tragedy. 

I had high hopes for this “classic.” The play is my favourite Shakespeare but Mankiewicz is way too beholden to abridgement. When he does linger faithfully, we stay on the same sets for so long, with no instinct to open the play out, so that it all feels constrained and unambiguous. Brando is adequate as Marc Anthony but given little screen time, Mason’s Brutus is sweaty and broken from the off, only Louis Calhern’s Caesar breathes any true vitality into the text. And I say that knowing Gielgud (surely a duck to the Bard’s waters) is in the cast. Unambitious and underwhelming.

5

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