Saturday, August 08, 2015

Dvd/150: The CAESARS (Derek Bennett, 1968, tv)

Eight years before the more-famous I CLAUDIUS, there had been another TV series about the Julio-Claudian dynasty of ancient Rome called THE CAESARS on Granada TV.

I don't recall ever seeing it so it was fascinating to compare the two as they both cover the same timeline.  More interested in the political than the personal, the earlier series is exceptional thanks to the dry wit and concise story-telling of Philip Mackie's scripts and it's shadowy b&w photography.

Excellent performances abound: Sonia Dresdel's Livia is an imperious battle-axe, André Morrell is remarkable as the urbanely cynical Tiberius while Freddie Jones is fine in his award-winning performance as Claudius.

The second half of the series is dominated by Ralph Bates' quicksilver, insane Caligula - interesting too to see what was permissible onscreen in 1968!

There is also a tantalising cameo from Nicola Pagett as the young scheming Messalina.

Shelf or charity shop? A keeper... especially as it features a performance from my dear friend the late and great John Normington as Caligula's secretary!

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