Sog. e scen.: Vittorio Cottafavi, Ennio De Concini, Giorgio Cristallini, Arnaldo Marrosu, Duccio Tessari (non accreditato); F.: (Eastmancolor, Supercinescope): Mario Pacheco; Mo.: Julio Peña, Luciano Cavalieri; Scgf.: Antonio Simont; Co.: Vittorio Rossi; Mu.: Renzo Rossellini, dirette da Alberto Paoletti; Int.: Linda Cristal (Cleopatra), Ettore Manni (Curridio), Georges Marchal (Marc’Antonio), Corrado Sanmartin (Gotarzo), Maria Mahon (Marianna), Tomas Blanco, Alfredo Mayo (Cesare Augusto), Daniela Rocca (Teyrè), Mino Doro (Domiziano), Juan Majan (Vezio), Andrea Aureli (Imotio), Salvatore Furnari (il nano), Rafael Duran, Janny Clair, Mary Carrillo, Rafael Calvo, Stefano Oppedisano; Prod.: Virgilio De Blasi, Italo Zingarelli, Robert de Nesle per Alexandra Produzioni Cinematografiche (Roma)/Atenea Films (Madrid)/Estela Films (Madrid)/C.F.P.C. Lyre (Paris); Pri. pro.: 27 novembre 1959. 35mm. L.: 2764 m. D.: 98’.
The western has often been – unjustifiably – compared to action films, to which it is similar only superficially. Here, perhaps for the first time in Europe, we are faced with a film that is incredibly “western” in spirit and language, in the way human relationships are portrayed through savagery, where every element is a provocation, and cowardice and heroism are not tolerated. (…) Such a vision of the world excludes irony as much as indifference, but not humor, nor a kind of “forced” quality, and especially not a certain sense of the absurd: it is a question of capturing the nonchalance of events. This is demonstrated by the film’s extraordinary beginning sequence. The opening credits are followed by three pages of historical background filling up the entire screen. Their purpose is to introduce the striking variety of people on the street and in the taverns with riots, discussions, digressions and visits to the slave market. A short dialogue combines gestures, offering an additional perspective. At the market a merchant says, “This one is to be used for a different purpose,” presenting a boy after praising the qualities of some women to be sold. As usual, Cottafavi condenses meaning into the least amount of time possible, by being guided solely by the joy of storytelling and illustrating. It would be easy to fall back on this constant flow of ideas and clever tricks, if not for the sake of demonstration at least for the sheer pleasure of recounting (which perhaps is the best means for demonstrating), but I prefer not to. (…) Even the camera moves with ease during dialogues, indicating the speakers, alternating backing away and moving forward with the harmony of a single breath. A harmony that is not afraid of the rush of syncopated escapes, sudden interruptions, leaps or backtracking, the result of an awareness of “idle moments” and deadly boredom. As soon as one of those classic, unending dialogues between lovebirds begins – imperative weak moments in action films that we pray to be spared of – “cut”, and then we are back in the heart of the action.
Last but not least, the sensational performance of an unusual Cleopatra and a carriage with ten horses. Cleopatra dies on her throne, immobile in her majesty, after Mark Antony puts all his heroism and desperation into an admirable crimson colored show for her death. Because Mark Antony and Cottafavi were also capable of this: viewing death as poets and republicans.
Michel Delahaye, Le sens de l’Histoire, “Cahiers du cinéma”, n. 111, September 1960