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Cleopatra | 1934 | Original theatrical trailer | Cecil B. DeMille | Masters of Cinema

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Published on Oct 11, 2012

A pre-code film that sneaked onto screens just as the censorious Hays Office began cracking down on Hollywood's racier propositions, Cleopatra is a libertine paean to decadence and depravity that can still send a viewer's mind reeling and pulse thumping -- all courtesy of the Golden Age's swampiest psychosexual auteur, Cecil B. DeMille.

Claudette Colbert presides over the most outrageous spectacle this side of The Scarlet Empress as the eponymous pharaoh queen who speeds from Julius Caesar (Warren William) to Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon), from Egypt to Rome, from war-room to bedroom... The whiff of incense permeates every scene, with each connected to the next in a veritable matrix of whips, blindfolds, and bindings -- the crazed arrangement laying bare all the fetish inklings of the moving-picture dream.

Lavishly produced with some of the most inspired waxing-moon photography and unwholesome set-design to come out of the studio system, DeMille's film is an erotic tour-de-force that obliges us to re-examine the appeal of this most popular of Hollywood directors.

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