Julius Caesar (1970 film)

Julius Caesar

film poster
Directed by Stuart Burge
Produced by Peter Snell
Written by Robert Furnival
Based on Julius Caesar
by William Shakespeare
Starring Charlton Heston
Jason Robards
John Gielgud
Richard Johnson
Robert Vaughn
Richard Chamberlain
Diana Rigg
Music by Michael J. Lewis
Cinematography Kenneth Higgins
Edited by Eric Boyd-Perkins
Commonwealth United Entertainment
Distributed by Commonwealth United Entertainment (UK)
American International Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • 4 June 1970 (1970-06-04) (UK)
Running time
116 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Julius Caesar is a 1970 British independent film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play of the same name, directed by Stuart Burge from a screenplay by Robert Furnival. The film stars Charlton Heston, Jason Robards, John Gielgud, Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain, Diana Rigg, and Jill Bennett.[1] It is the first film version of the play made in colour.



The film was shot at studios in the UK and on locations in Spain.[2]


Critical response

The reviews for this version upon its theatrical release were mostly negative, with Robards especially being criticized for his wooden performance as Brutus. The film failed at the box office.

Howard Thompson wrote in his review: ""Ye gods! Must I endure all this?" understandably bellows Cassius (Richard Johnson) in the last lap of the third filming of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, which opened yesterday at the Kips Bay Theater. Made in England and Spain and in color, with a perfectly viable cast headed by Jason Robards and Charlton Heston, the new picture is generally as flat and juiceless as a dead haddock. In this third go-round, Willie and Julius, both, really get the business. It's Shakespeare all right, at least in dialogue. Dramaturgically, the blueprint adheres to the Hollywood version back in 1953. That solid, intelligent treatment may have lacked majesty but it did have two fire-and-ice performances by John Gielgud as Cassius and Marlon Brando as Mark Antony. And the tormented soul of the real hero, Brutus (James Mason), was sufficiently and touchingly bared. Then there was an even earlier Julius Caesar from Chicago, of all places, with a newcomer named Charlton Heston as Antony, which he repeats here. The movie did have a raw, shoestring vigor and a bit more. The new movie moves sluggishly, as directed by Stuart Burge. As the center of the whole thing, Robards is incredibly dull and wooden as Brutus, the "noblest Roman of them all." Heston supplies laconic bite and delivers a good, ferocious funeral oration. For all his professionalism, Gielgud's Caesar is just an old shrewdie who yields to his ego. In Sir John's former Cassius slot, Johnson looks anything but "lean and hungry," with a bearded sneer, contrasting Robert Vaughn's bland, eye-rolling Casca. However, Diana Rigg and Richard Chamberlain, as Portia and Octavius Caesar, are briefly excellent in their quicksliver precision and feeling. But it's hopeless. Now Julius Caesar looks left out all night.[2]

Critic Roger Ebert gives it only one star. In his review, he wrote: "There's hardly any way to describe how Jason Robards brings Julius Caesar to its knees, but let me try. It's a neat trick. He stares vacantly into the camera and recites Shakespeare's words as if he'd memorized them seconds before, or maybe was reading from idiot cards. Each word has the same emphasis as the last, and they march out of the screen at us without regard for phrases, sentences or emotional content. We begin to suspect, along toward Robards' big speech over Caesar's body, that Robards' mind has been captured by a computer from another planet and that the movie is an alien plot to drain the soul from mighty Shakespeare. Robards would be enough, all by himself, to capsize the movie, but there's more. The actors race about on sets so flimsy we half expect them to collapse and sweep the entire Senate away with Caesar. When the crowds gather for Mark Antony's funeral oration, they group themselves like refugees from a particularly orderly Renaissance painting. When we get close-ups of the conspirators, they're arranged like mannequins in a department store window, and so rigid is the staging that sometimes they actually have to talk over their shoulders to each other. And then there's the matter of the walla. In big crowd scenes, sound departments always put in a lot of walla. Crudely defined, walla is the mix of indistinguishable noises a crowd makes when it talks all at once: Walla, walla, walla. Now walla isn't expensive - mere cents per wal - but in Julius Caesar something very weird has happened to the walla. It sounds as if it were composed on a synthetic electronic device of some sort; it doesn't sound human. So there's poor Robards trying to remember his lines, and all this synthetic walla curling around him, and then Charlton Heston leaps in with his Mark Antony speech. Heston does a fine job. Indeed, several performances are good; especially Robert Vaughn's as a slippery Casca. But just when Heston gets into high gear, we cut away to a long shot of the crowd and lose all the personal emotion in Heston's face.[3]


Julius Caesar was released in the UK on 4 June 1970. The film was released on DVD on 11 May 2004 initially and then 1 February 2005, 25 July 2006, and 19 February 2013 afterwards.[4] Upon its 2013 Blu-ray disc release, it met with a more positive review from the website DVD Talk, although Jason Robards' performance was still soundly panned.[5] Its previous DVD release, which was pan-and-scanned rather than letterboxed, had been harshly criticized, and several other DVD reviewers also disparaged the film.[6]

Other Caesar films

John Gielgud played Cassius in the 1953 film version of Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.[7] Charlton Heston had played Mark Antony once before, in an earlier film version of Julius Caesar, made in Chicago in 1950.[8] He would do so yet again, in a 1972 film version of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, which Heston directed.[9]

See also


External links

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