An intriguing partner piece to the Elizabeth Taylor Hollywood blockbuster of the 1960s, DeMille’s Cleopatra is a remarkably racy (released just before the Hays Office censorship crackdown), consummately melodramatic depiction of the famed Queen of the Nile and her Roman suitors. Claudette Colbert is well-cast as the deity-like diva, a ruthless yet likeable siren responsible for leading both Julius Caesar (Warren William) and Marc Anthony (a less successful Henry Wilcoxon) to their untimely demises: “Beware the ides of March.” However, whilst the sets and costume design are suitably lavish, Cleopatra still lacks the erotic energy of some of DeMille’s earlier outings.
Easily more accomplished in terms of artistic vision, Lang’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse – the long-awaited follow-up to his 1922 crime thriller Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler – is yet another dark, dystopian morality tale set in pre-Second World War Berlin. Now institutionalised, arch-criminal and master-of-disguise Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) spends his days in a locked cell, scribbling inanities onto reams of paper. However, outside the asylum, the sociopath’s dream of an “Empire of Crime” begins to be realised, leading baffled police officers to question their own belief In the supernatural.
Rounding off this trio of new MoC rereleases is Pasolini’s vivid Greek odyssey, Oedipus Rex. A loose adaptation of the Theban play of the same name, Pasolini inserts his own unique sensibilities into the piece, once again book-ending a tragic tale of antiquity within a complementary modern-day narrative. Regular collaborator Franco Citti is superb as the unhinged Oedipus, fated to kill his own father and fornicate with his mother, horrifically blinding himself in the presence. As per usual, Pasolini pulls no punches. For those yet to sample the delights of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema strand – or any of the aforementioned auteurs, for that matter – this new round of rereleases offers a rare opportunity to re-evaluate some truly challenging artefacts from cinema’s history.