Barely seen since it opened in 1972, Charlton Heston's Antony andCleopatra is one of the handsomest and most vividly cinematicShakespeare adaptations – this is first and foremost a film, and onewhose epic scale often belies its surprisingly modest budget withjudicious use of leftover sets from 50s and 60s epics, some well chosenSpanish locations, a bit of stock footage from Fox's Cleopatra and animpressive supporting cast. If anything the supporting cast are almosttoo impressive, often showing up actor-director Heston's weaknesseswith the Bard's verse. While his co-stars generally favor a morenaturalistic style, at times Heston goes for the kind of declamatorystyle that values the sound of the words rather than the meaning, acommon pitfall with Shakespeare films. In his favor, Heston has theepic stature and presence to convince as a superstar of the ancientworld whose fool for love act is revealing feet of clay that at firstdismays and then sets his fans against him with fatal consequences, andhis performance improves as he uses it against himself to expose thecharacter's increasingly obvious flaws.<br><br>A labor of love for Heston (who apparently included use of stockfootage from Cleopatra in his deal to make Beneath the Planet of theApes), there's some real imagination in the staging – he sets Antonyand Octavian's first meeting against a gladiatorial combat, while theaftermath of the battle of Actium is played out amid the wreckage onthe beach - and great visuals – Heston really understands the scale ofthe story and the value of real locations as well as the occasionalneed for the kind of movement and energy that's so often missing fromShakespeare films. Not everything works (there's some flashcut insertsin a couple of scenes that are probably better as ideas than inexecution), and it does tend to drag a bit in the last third, but thenso does the play, yet there's more than enough here to mark Heston outas a more intelligent and imaginative director than he was ever givencredit for.<br><br>It's also surprisingly well cast. Despite attracting much criticalderision, Hildegard Neil is a convincingly mercurial Cleopatra, JohnCastle makes his Octavian equally disappointed and ruthless and there'sstrong support from Julian Glover, Douglas Wilmer, Jane Lapotoire,Peter Arne, Roger Delgado, John Hallam, Joe Melia and Fernando Rey(surprisingly well dubbed by Richard Johnson, who also dubs AldoSambrell and Juan Luis Galiardo). Even serial overactor Freddie Jonesis kept under control for once as Pompey. But the film's outstandingperformance is easily Eric Porter's Enobarbus, easily the finestShakespeare performance I've ever seen on screen, managing at once tobring the verse to life without ever losing sight of the human beingbeneath it: his rapturous ode to "the barge she sat in" paints a farmore spectacular and magical picture in the mind than anything inJoseph Mankiewicz's 1963 epic (though some of the footage from theBattle of Actium does turn up in the battle scenes). Equally worthy ofstar billing is John Scott's remarkable score, one of the best and mostsadly overlooked of the 70s, and a thing of real beauty in its own waytoo. Given a rough ride by critics in its day and now extremely hard tofind (there's a cut Spanish DVD and a surprisingly good uncut – minusthe overture – widescreen transfer that was given away with a Greeknewspaper and can be found on ebay), it's well worth a look.