Julius Caesar (1953)

Genres - Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Historical Epic, Tragedy  |   Release Date - Jun 4, 1953 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Dan Jardine

The 1953 production of Julius Caesar is a surprisingly successful, star-studded adaptation of the Shakespearean tale of loyalty, betrayal, and political intrigue in ancient Rome. A strong cast distinguishes the film, with James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, and Marlon Brando as Marc Antony offering distinctly different yet entirely satisfying interpretations of their historical figures. The screenplay is a seamless adaptation of the source material, keeping the focus on both the human drama of Brutus' struggle to decide between personal loyalty and public welfare and the political implications of violent rebellion, a topic of particular interest to Elizabethan audiences. The black-and-white cinematography adds an appropriately film noir-ish element to the conspiratorial scenes, even as the vivid and potent imagery of Shakespeare's words is well-preserved. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz manages to showcase the Bard's dialogue in a film that also has the visual appeal of Oscar-winning art direction. Plot was never Shakespeare's greatest talent, and Julius Caesar suffers from a prolonged anti-climax (the final two acts add little to the story), but the film survives this deficiency with some show-stopping speeches. Marc Anthony is blessed with a couple of inspiring and potent orations, and, despite his lack of experience in Elizabethan drama, Brando hits most of the right notes.