The Web    www.100share.com    Google
 
I, Claudius [VHS]
List Price: $129.98

Our Price: $34.44

You Save: $95.54 (74%)

 


Product Description

This superbly acted, mordantly funny romp through 70 years or so of Roman history is one of the best-loved miniseries ever made, and deservedly so. Derek Jacobi plays Roman Emperor Claudius, who reflects in old age on his life and his remarkable family, giving us a history lesson that's unlike anything you learned in school.

The story begins in 24 B.C. during the reign of Augustus Caesar, Rome's first emperor, and ends in A.D. 54 with Nero on the throne. In between, I, Claudius details the scheming, murder, madness, and lust that passed for politics in the early years of the Pax Romana. The biggest worm in the Roman apple is Augustus's wife, Livia (the superb Sian Phillips), whose single-minded pursuit of power shapes the destiny of the Empire. With a carefully planted rumor here and a poisoned fig there, she gradually maneuvers her son, Tiberius, toward the throne, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and treachery that starts Rome on its helter-skelter slide into bloody chaos. Phillips somehow makes us understand this extraordinarily wicked woman. As she ages and her carefully wrought webs begin to unravel, it becomes clear that Livia has been as thoroughly poisoned by her own ambition as her victims were by her carefully prepared meals.

Further acting honors go to George Baker as Tiberius, who resists but eventually succumbs to the destiny forced upon him by his mother, and to John Hurt as a hilarious and absolutely terrifying Caligula. In one breathtakingly tense scene, the mad Emperor performs a dance in drag, then asks Claudius to critique it, perfectly capturing the horror of a world where one wrong word means death, or worse. Jacobi is the perfect Claudius, hiding his intelligence behind a crippling stammer and shuffling around the edges of events--until he finds himself pulled to the very center. His wry comments give shape to the tangled story of his family and help the audience make sense of a dauntingly complex cast of characters.

I, Claudius might seem a little studio-bound to viewers brought up on more recent big-budget costume dramas, but the topnotch cast and the incident-filled plot are more than enough to hold the attention through almost 11 hours of gripping, deliciously wicked Roman follies. This boxed set also includes a documentary entitled "The Epic That Never Was," about Alexander Korda's failed attempt to film I, Claudius in 1937. The film, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Charles Laughton as Claudius and Merle Oberon as Messalina, was abandoned unfinished, and it remains one of Hollywood's great lost movies. --Simon Leake

Customer Reviews:

  • Great purchase!
    This is a great DVD set for anyone who is interested in the romans. The quality is not extremely high- being that it is BBC- but you quickly forget as you are captivated by the characters....more info
  • Delightfully Quirky
    This miniseries was highly recommended by one of my teachers, so I bought it to see what it was about. It is filmed in the classic BBC of the 70's style, but the acting and the plot are so great that one becomes drawn into the story and the different eccentricities of the characters. The sound when Emperor Claudius is narrating is very quiet, but the rest of the voices are audible (with the volume turned up a bit). I, Claudius simply put is a wonderful miniseries....more info
  • First there was I Claidius, then there Was Rome
    Outstanding. If you've watched the wonderful Rome series from HBO, then you need to watch this as well. You'll discover quite as I did that those women had too much time on their hands merely sipping wine and eating olives and figuring out who they were going to poison next....more info
  • I, Claudius
    I thought it was an amazing piece of work. Superb. I had seen it on TV when it first ran and loved it. I'm proud to own it now....more info
  • A Great Drama But Not History
    I, Claudius is a series that I know well from having watched the original broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre and then when it was re-broadcast. Subsequently, I purchased the VHS tapes. The BBC television series was fortunate in having so many great actors (many just starting their careers) and would never have been quite as successful had it not been for the astonishing performance of Derek Jacobi as Claudius. Mr. Jacobi perfectly assumed the physical handicaps of the future emperor and portrayed him as a noble and learned man. The supporting cast was just as remarkable with superb performances by Sian Phillips (as Livia), John Hurt (as Gaius Caligual) and Patrick Stewart (as Sejanus) just to name those that come immediately to mind. The production is also quite good although many of the sets are reused with a lot of frequency and I was surprised to see a bust of the second century emperor Antoninus Pius in Augustus' house.

    Having read many of the reviews posted at Amazon I think it is important to stress that as good a drama as I, Claudius is it is historical fiction. I have done a great deal of research and writing about the early Roman emperors my view of I, Claudius as entertainment has altered. It is a great soap opera but very little of it can be said to be fact yet many people take I, Claudius as accurate history of the period when it is at best a third hand reworking of the facts. In translating I, Claudius to the small screen the producers took quite a few liberties with Robert Graves' novels and certainly any gossip reported by Suetonius was taken as fact. A good example in I, Claudius is there scenes where Caligula "accidentally" kills his pregnant sister Drusilla dressed as Zeus fearful that her unborn child will be more powerful than he is. The novel has no such scene and Suetonius merely records that Drusilla died without noting anything sinister about her demise. Yet, I have heard one of the "talking heads" from a History Channel program about Caligula's famous ship on Lake Nemi actually take the I, Claudius version of events as fact.

    An accurate port rail of history usually does not make an interesting drama (also it would be time-consuming), and ancient history many times needs to be interpreted to reach any conclusions about what happened. I, Claudius is a great drama but for the most part fictional. So while I highly recommend I, Claudius as a great drama I would also urge those viewers who enjoy knowing the facts to read a few books. I would recommend those by Anthony Barrett, Barabara Levick, Pat Southern and Anthony Everitt.


    ...more info
  • See I, CLAUDIUS uncut !!!!!...Not!!
    While this edition is an improvement over the previous releases in terms of video and audio and the bonus extra feature is a welcome addition, viewers should be forewarned that this edition does not contain all of the footage that has been seen on previous editions (either broadcast or on home video) of this great epic. Nevertheless, I am assuming this edition represents what viewers in the UK saw on the BBC back in 1976. I own 2 previous editions:

    1. The heavily censored MASTERPIECE THEATRE edition as it aired originally on PBS (taped from a rerun in the early 90's on shown on PBS as part of MT 20th anniversary; Claudius being the only series that was rerun in it's entirety on MT so many years after the fact.)
    2. The IMAGE Laser Disc release of the mid 90's (which I believe was the source of the first DVD release).

    Originally CLAUDIUS aired on MT in 13 one hr episodes. This 13 episode format was left intact for the first LD release but the censored scenes were restored, including an extension of the African slave dance in episode one, and Caligula's abortion of his sisters baby in episode 9. While these scenes remained in the broadcast. version they were censored especially the one in ep 9. There might have been other cuts, but these are the ones that stand out.

    The new DVD goes back to the BBC version (as far as I can tell) and preserves the format of the original presentation. Episode 1 was 2 hours in length on BBC, thus the new DVD has only 12 episodes instead of the 13 broadcast on American TV. This was due to the fact that episode 1 had to be split in two to accommodate for the 1 hr running time of MT. In this new DVD the african slave dance scene has been shortened by about a minute, and there is a "bridge" scene that unifies what was MT episodes 1&2. This scene is a "flashback setup" and has Claudius in the gym before the wrestling scene between Drusus and Tiberius and Claudius is thinking about his Drusus when the flashback begins. This same flashback setup is present at the start of the MT second episode, but instead of it being in the gym it is in Claudius study.

    I have not gone through the rest of the episodes, but I did check ep 9 (now 8 in the new DVD set) and it seems to be intact. I will add other cuts and/or additions as I go through the other episodes.

    I give this DVD 4 stars and it would have been a 5 if not for the shortened scenes

    Hope this helps....more info
  • informative.
    We really used the family tree inserted into the DVDs. It helped us keep track as it progressed chronologically through the Roman history.
    ...more info
  • A Great Drama But Not History
    I, Claudius is a series that I know well from having watched the original broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre and then when it was re-broadcast. Subsequently, I purchased the VHS tapes. The BBC television series was fortunate in having so many great actors (many just starting their careers) and would never have been quite as successful had it not been for the astonishing performance of Derek Jacobi as Claudius. Mr. Jacobi perfectly assumed the physical handicaps of the future emperor and portrayed him as a noble and learned man. The supporting cast was just as remarkable with superb performances by Sian Phillips (as Livia), John Hurt (as Gaius Caligual) and Patrick Stewart (as Sejanus) just to name those that come immediately to mind. The production is also quite good although many of the sets are reused with a lot of frequency and I was surprised to see a bust of the second century emperor Antoninus Pius in Augustus' house.

    Having read many of the reviews posted at Amazon I think it is important to stress that as good a drama as I, Claudius is it is historical fiction. I have done a great deal of research and writing about the early Roman emperors my view of I, Claudius as entertainment has altered. It is a great soap opera but very little of it can be said to be fact yet many people take I, Claudius as accurate history of the period when it is at best a third hand reworking of the facts. In translating I, Claudius to the small screen the producers took quite a few liberties with Robert Graves' novels and certainly any gossip reported by Suetonius was taken as fact. A good example in I, Claudius is there scenes where Caligula "accidentally" kills his pregnant sister Drusilla dressed as Zeus fearful that her unborn child will be more powerful than he is. The novel has no such scene and Suetonius merely records that Drusilla died without noting anything sinister about her demise. Yet, I have heard one of the "talking heads" from a History Channel program about Caligula's famous ship on Lake Nemi actually take the I, Claudius version of events as fact.

    An accurate port rail of history usually does not make an interesting drama (also it would be time-consuming), and ancient history many times needs to be interpreted to reach any conclusions about what happened. I, Claudius is a great drama but for the most part fictional. So while I highly recommend I, Claudius as a great drama I would also urge those viewers who enjoy knowing the facts to read a few books. I would recommend those by Anthony Barrett, Barabara Levick, Pat Southern and Anthony Everitt.


    ...more info
  • History Brought to Life
    "I, Claudius"

    History Brought to Life

    Amos Lassen

    The wonderful BBC series "I, Claudius" is still hailed as one of the best mini-series ever to be broadcast and the newly released digitally remastered DVD set further proves that. It has something for everyone aside from the outstanding performances. There are politics, sex and violence and the entire production is classy. The series is made up of 12 parts which trace the lives of the emperors of Rome as it shows their ruthless ambition, their dark intrigues and their total debauchery. Ancient Rome has always been enigmatic and "I, Claudius" shows just this.
    Claudius himself was regarded as a fool because of his stutter and limp but it was foretold that one day he would rule the empire and it is his life that is the real focus here. Looking back at the series, I realized that there is really nothing new sexually going on today. It is an interesting look at the empire that almost ruled the world.
    The new edition has a new documentary entitled "The Empire that Never Was" which is a behind the scenes featurette on the 1937 movie version of "I, Claudius" which starred Merle Oberon and Charles Laughton. For this alone it is worth seeing this set.
    ...more info
  • Magnificent Production
    Great production and high quality DVD. I love this part of history and find Robert Graves' book "I Claudius" rather well presented in this series. Of course, as always, the book is better for plot and story line - but this DVD series is delightful. It is wonderful to SEE the characters from history come to life. Livia is particularly well played. I highly recommend this DVD to anyone who is interested in Imperial Roman history and anyone who enjoys historical dramas. Fast paced, great characters, murder-sex-violence-power - all in there. I cannot say enough good things about this DVD....more info
  • The Best TV series
    I Claudius is one of the best, if not the best TV series ever made. BBC productions nailed this one on the head. Even my kids, just teens, love to have 'I Claudius' marathons. ...more info
  • Fabulous
    What can you say about perfection? Definitely a must see (and own!). Still brilliant and contemporary even after all this time....more info
  • Supurb Acting!
    Followed the story very closely. Excellent acting. Spell bound. Can't say enough about the I Claudius!!! Highly recommend adding to your library of GREATS....more info
  • Christmas present
    This is a gift, so I have not looked into it, but it looks like a gift anyone would be pleased to receive....more info
  • As good as you remember it - and now at a fair price.
    Outstanding piece of television. I first saw in on Masterpiece Theater many years ago and it is still very engaging. This DVD transfer looked very good to me, clearer and with better color than old analog televisions were able to render it when first shown. Remember, it was never a theatrical movie production and was originally formatted for 4:5 aspect ratio, so don't expect anamorphic widescreen quality. Yes, the sound is occasionally a bit sketchy, but I do not feel it was a significant problem. Production values are actually very good given the budget contraints they were probably facing. And the acting is absolutely first class. My thanks to all who were associated with this package. It's nicely done and fairly priced. If you liked it back then, you'll love it now. ...more info
  • Soapy but fascinating near-history
    I didn't follow this TV series on its first go-around in 1976, because I thought it would be little more than an historical soap opera. I have not changed my mind about that, but the quality of writing and acting is, of course, far superior and the stories are much more compelling. I found myself watching all thirteen episodes straight through over a single weekend.

    History it isn't, and there is a tendency for people to forget that a movie or TV program doesn't portray reality. But though the accounts of Tacitus and Suetonius may differ from those of Robert Graves in terms of what actually happened (if any truth can be found at all within contemporary documents), they all certainly must agree on the tone of the times and the character of the personalities involved in this era of the first four Roman emperors.

    Historians say that it is unlikely that Livia was the poisoner she was cracked up to be, and Claudius probably wasn't the poor tormented sweetie -- but, then, without all that, there would be much less of a story to tell. Oh, well, not only must the needs of drama be served, but also it is human tradition for history to be slanted by its writers. Is a modern historical novelist or TV/cinema scriptwriter really any different from an ancient archivist twisting events into sycophantic paeans dedicated to some victorious strongman?

    Regarding the video itself, I concur with other reviewers' complaints about the poor sound quality and the dreadful make-up (latex attachments that are all too visible in close-up), although the color seems to have been restored very nicely.

    The hidden jewel in this boxed set is the documentary on Disc Five called "The Epic That Never Was". This treasure is worth the price of the whole series, preserving beautiful, precious footage of the aborted 1937 Sternberg version. I was especially captivated by the deliciously oily portrayal of Caligula by Emlyn Williams, whose work both as an actor and as a playwright has been sadly eclipsed all these years....more info
  • I, Claudius DVD Boxed SET EXCELLANT
    Boxed Set of DVD's done in Ancient Rome era about the reign of Claudius. Not exactly a movie but more of a play! Still enjoyable and worth the purchase....more info
  • I Claudius looks good
    I didn't watch it originally. Now, I think Derek Jacoby is brilliant. And the boxed set is terrific....more info
  • Makeup by Play-Doh
    Truly a must see. Outstanding acting and absorbing dialogue. I also liked the DVD extra content. However, I found the makeup extremely distracting. I can't imagine what they were thinking. On many characters it looks like it was clumsily applied with a trowel. So bad I find it downright distracting at times. ...more info
  • I, Claw..Claw..Claudius is no fool
    This has to be one of the best BBC productions I've ever seen. You will absolutely be blown away by these actors and the quality of the screenplay. I read "I, Claudius" some years ago and admittedly, it didn't form much of an impression on me. This production caught me completely off guard. I can't believe I bought this from a used-seller for $40 and was given such a treat to watch all these master-class Shakespearean actors. Why have I not heard or seen Sian Phillips before this? She's absolutely wonderful. She's such a wicked woman but intensely amusing. You get to see decades of her misdeeds, all in the name of Rome of course, but even I pitied her during her death-bed scene. There's so many brilliant characters, several who are just so wonderfully hateful, especially John Hurt as Caligula. I read somewhere that most of what we know about Caligula is rumor, that his actual recorded history is unfortunately lost. There's some concurrance though, that he was either mentally ill or suffered from epilepsy. This production however, doesn't give him an ounce pity. He's depicted as as vile and grotesque, a "monster," even as a young boy. I couldn't stop watching him or feeling afraid for any other person he came in contact with. No one was safe or able to speak out against him. John Hurt was I think only 36 at the time of this production, but he made the wisest choices as an actor. At the center of this family firestorm of murder, intrigue, and debauchery is our little Claudius. It's amazing to watch him survive through one clamity after another with barely the perception of his idiocy keeping him alive. I was a bit conflicted as to how I felt about him, though. On one hand I felt pity for him and his afflictions, and how he was mistreated by practically all his family. He was charming, loyal, and intelligent but unfortunately, too trusting. On the other hand, he barely had a back-bone. It's in his nature not to make trouble and he tries not to get involved, but sometimes that choice makes him gutless esepcially when innocent people need help. Even with some production, visual and sound problems with this DVD, I would still give this series higher than 5 stars if I could. I count myself very fortunate to have seen this. It's given me enthusiasm to buy other films and books centered around Imperial Rome. This DVD series is an absolute treasure, you wont be disappointed....more info
  • fiction, roman emperors
    This wonderful classic television event was a kick to watch then and still is s kick to watch as a dvd library collection at home. The actors do a marvelous job portraying the characters of those turbulent times. Roman History 101 in a very entertaining and memorable format. Definitely a keeper for those wanting to purchase a memorable show....more info
  • historical
    I Claudius, is a classic, well acted and great story. If you like history, you will like this, it is a true story...more info
  • do not buy this
    The irony is that I rented this based on high recommendations from Amazon, so I feel I should say this as a warning. There are plenty of negative reviews for the DVD quality, but few of those recognize that the quality of the original series is low to begin with. My wife is a TV producer and was apalled at the low-budget look of this, especially the sound. We had it turned up over twice the volume we usually use, and it's not the transfer. They probably used one microphone for the whole room, so if someone walks away from the camera (as they often do in soap-opera style directing) his voice will trail off. We literally gave up on the whole series 20 minutes into the first episode. Not just because of the poor quality, but also the whole look of it is very "70s BBC." Older British television has a very distinct look, which makes it unwatchable by today's standards. The camera angles are either one or two wide shots, and the expected close-up, revealing layers of pancake make-up and 70's hairstyles. At no time was I convinced that I was watching a scene from ancient Rome, which was (painfully) obviously a BBC sound stage. I won't criticize the acting, because this is a theatrical costume drama and any vapid soap-opera dialogue is par for the course. Please don't buy into the 5-star reviews deeming this a "classic." It may have been great in its own time, but it does not hold up to today's standards in production or video quality in any way. ...more info
  • excellent and timeless
    About as faithful to the books as you could be, although it is helpful to read the books and then watch the series.

    This series was tremendously ahead of its time when it was broadcast. For some reason being on BBC-PBS and all those togas made the fact that what most of the characters are doing is really evil palatable.

    Excellent and enjoyable in every way, with stunning performances by the best classically trained actors....more info
  • The decadence of ancient Rome.
    I first saw the miniseries years ago on PBS.But not the full series because I forgot what day it was on and so I missed an episode here and there.So now I

    got the entire series .Overall I give it 5 stars for the show and 2 stars for the lackluster presentation.
    ...more info
  • Rulers of Rome: the Good and the Evil
    This series is a fascinating look at the tremendous heights of empirical glory and despotism that kicked off the Roman Empire. From the brilliant government of Augustus to the mad and criminal excesses of Caligula the early years of the Roman Empire are brought to life in brilliant detail and color through the eyes of the wretched Claudius. Ignored, ridiculed and despised for his limp and his stutter, he witnesses and records the vast web of power, murder, ambition, intrigue and madness that engulfs Rome's royal family. Although not as visually colorful or explicit as HBO's ROME, I Claudius does not disappoint. The acting is superb; Derek Jacobi and John Hurt in particular are brilliant as the best and worst of the Claudian dynasty. I, Claudius is definitive proof that stellar writing and acting can override any deficiencies in budget. This series is the perfect meeting of History Channel and tabloid....more info
  • I Claudius
    I bought this as a gift for my son. I found the check out difficut to follow and had to do it two times. I was unable to have it sent directly to my son. I had it sent to me and then I mailed to my son.
    Mrs. Robert Sanders...more info
  • Beneath the hype and superb acting is an average series
    Watching the episodes one after another, about two each night for a week or so, I had high expectations for the series which has been so critically acclaimed.

    The first episode was a good, but not fabulously great, way to begin, showing off the titanic acting talents of the likes of Brian Blessed as Augustus (whom I only know as Boss Nass in The Phantom Menace and the wrestling instructor in Alexander), Sian Phillips as Livia, and John Paul as Agrippa.

    The real core focus of the series is the "court" dramas of the Imperial family, in which they are more like a monarchal dynasty than figureheads of Roman virtue and such.

    At some point by episode two, the real focus of the series starts getting muddied. After Livia kills Marcellus, the episodes start to mold together, with no real action or drama occuring save for the family bickering with one another. Tiberius this, Agrippa that, Julia etc. If it weren't for the massive amounts of makeup placed on the actors to indicate their aging, you wouldn't know whether it's still episode three or episode five.

    It isn't until Claudius enters the picture that the series begins to pick up again and get more exciting. At this point, it's discovered that Julia has been sleeping around Rome and Augustus finds out. While I think Brian Blessed is magnificent as Augustus, I think he's too thick, and boistrous to be the Emperor. Augustus in reality was very thin all his life, very pretty and often prone to illness due to asthma and such.

    Claudius really steals the show at this point, even as a child, with his limping and constant twitching and stuttering. It's a bit overdone by the child actor, but as soon as Derek Jacobi comes in, he is perfect in his role.

    There's really very little interest in Tiberius, despite his great acting and the emphasis on his reign, but the true impact of his terror isn't as rightly felt by anyone in the series as it is in, say, "Caligula" (and Peter O'Toole is far superior to George Baker as Tiberius, not to detract anything from him as an actor). His reign of over two decades is covered in 3 or 4 episodes.

    In this period, the drama starts picking up again, with Germanicus and Drusus and Nero and Livia's plotting against them, but really it's not very clearly defined. Their whole conflict appears to be muddled in the midst of familial bickering and complaining, primarily at the hands of Tiberius's complaining about Rome and everything else.

    Patrick Stewart shows up as Lucius Aelius Sejanus, and lasts two or three episodes. His role, an important one, is quite speedily done, and much focus is placed on him rather than Tiberius in Capri, so when his death comes an episode later, it's rather sudden, and there hasn't been enough characterization of Caligula. John Hurt just jumps into him straight into madness.

    A lot of other rather big roles are either reduced to cameos, or eliminated altogether. There is no Nerva, and Macro is not depicted as controlling Tiberius via the Praetorian Guard.

    As soon as John Hurt comes in as Caligula, he completely steals the show. His acting is stupendous, despite his presence being in only two episodes, and towards the end it starts going way too over the top. As opposed to Malcolm McDowell's nuanced portrayal in "Caligula", John Hurt's Caligula is all madness, with no humanity to him. Even his relationship with Drusilla is reduced to lunatic debauchery, with the two of them pretending to be Zeus and Hera and prancing about drunkenly in the palace. John Hurt's acting in such scenes as his return from Britannia and showing his loot from Neptune to the Senate, and his dancing sequence before Claudius and two of the senators are marvels of acting fire.

    Caligula's death is rather hastily done, and done in such a way that there's no real cohesion among the conspirators, and they sort of pull a "Brutus and Cassius" by panicking and running around in many different directions until they storm into Claudius's house and declare him Emperor.

    A rather small issue I have is that the female actresses they use in the series range from average appearance to frightfully ugly. This wouldn't be a problem, if it weren't for the constant mention of how beautiful they are, or what stunning beauties the Julians/Claudians produce. And the same for the men as well.

    Reaching up to Claudius's reign, Derek Jacobi seems to get lazier in his role, stuttering and twitching much less (though it probably would have been, as he ceases playing the fool), and begins to act less like the Claudius we've seen before, and more just mumbling and bumbling his way through lines, until the final episode where he begins losing in earnest.

    The ending is rather long and drawn out, and seeming to be quickly rushed, as it explains to the audience, rather than show or lightly detail, how it seals up the series. The actor playing Nero is also quite terrible, seeming to be content to frolic around stupidly looking fat and frilly without anything really important to say.


    All in all, the series had great potential to be grand and encompassing, but behind the great acting and set and costumes, it was highly flawed and muddled in the beginning. Not the greatest series I've ever seen, but not the worst....more info
  • The best historical mini-series I have ever seen
    Without a doubt, for an in-depth fictional portrait of another era, this mini-series more or less sets the standard. The acting is uniformly excellent, but the depth of character, placed in context without cheap TV-style simplification, has not yet been equalled in my viewing. I will certainly watch it with my kids and discuss the details for hours and hours.

    As with all historical fiction, this version fills in a lot of gaps that we will never know, making events more dramatic or directed by malevolent intelligence, but it is an interpretation that is entirely plausible. This is the artist's license, and Graves was such a scholar that we can trust it. Moreover, it never crosses the line in melodrama or the maudlin.

    The story takes place at the end of the Republic. Julius Caesar is gone, and after a power struggle, Octavian (soon renamed Augustus) has emerged with his hands firmly on the reigns of power. It is one of those watershed moments, in which an entire new way of governance is invented. While not quite an hereditary monarchy, the Roman Emperor must designate an heir to his absolute power, which resides in the hands of two linked families: the Julians and the Claudians. Who will succeed Augustus is the crux of the story. Claudius, deformed, stuttering, and apparently feeble-minded, appears as the least likely successor. However, the candidates around Augustus keep dying in mysterious ways. Then when successors are chosen, they lack not only the moderation of the conservative Augustus, but lack his truly masterful political instinct of maintaining certain social balances. The result is drift, unimaginable autocratic cruelty, and the final destruction of the old oligarchic ruling classes, paving the way for an entirely new class of politicians to arise. Amidst the most brutal manipulation and machination, Claudius finally has his turn, with very surprising results. It is a wonderful study in absolute power and its corrupting influence.

    Many reviewers have criticized the copy. Upon viewing it, I must say that it is fine. The problem is that it was shot in the mid-1970s, which was a less technically adept time, and as a BBC production, it is lower budget that current viewers expect. Sure, some of the effects look chinsey, but the drama is so overpoweringly excellent that I cannot fault this.

    Warmly recommended. As a classics major, this brings what I studied to life, deepening my fascination with that vanished world. For a general audience, this version can create an interest that will last a lifetime. It is absolutely first rate....more info
  • No close-captioned!!!
    There is no close-caption in the DVD... if you have hearing problems you will be unlucky....more info
  • Closed Captions, Please!
    This is such a Wonderful thing.

    I am so glad that I first saw it when I could still hear-----now, I have to guess at what they say!

    I recently saw the series "Rome", it was good but paled in comparison to "I, Claudius"....more info
  • A Masterpiece of Television, Finally Remastered
    I belong to the generation that saw high-budget Roman period productions such as Ridley Scott's Gladiator, HBO's Rome, and even the Polish adaptation of Quo Vadis (highly recommended). Having also been brought up in the States and becoming something of a classicist during my later education, I had read Robert Graves' books I, Claudius and Claudius the God, and heard of the BBC miniseries and always meant to see it, though not expecting much due to the age of the series and low budget it required to be realized.

    When the chance came I snagged up the DVD series, and was so taken by the marvelous acting, intricate yet engaging storyline, and historical accuracy (it is not 100% accurate, but it is more accurate than the likes of Gladiator or HBO's ROME), that I watched the entire miniseries in a day. It was released originally in the 70's, however, and it showed. It was pity that Image Entertainment did not put in the extra money to restore such a masterpiece of television, one of Time Magazine's Top 100 television shows of all time- and rightfully so.

    I believe each actor did a superb job (though I don't think Augustus was casted or played true to history, Brian Blessed played and excellent father of the Empire). Hats off to the leading ladies, Sian Phillips as an iconic Livia no doubt, but also Margaret Tyzack plays the stoic, noble, yet imperfect matron Antonia with unforgettable force and sincerity. Tyzack's performance is perhaps my favorite in the series, as she shines in each scene. The writers did an excellent job in not type-casting evil as pure evil and good as pure good. They gave Livia her reasons, and Antonia her imperfections, and the intelligent viewer is to be thankful for that. Livilla, Messalina, and Agrippinilla were all exceptional "bad apples of the Julio-Claudians" as well.

    As for the men, Derek Jacobi brought the stuttering Claudius off the pages of history and into life with an uncanny naturalness. But the standout among the men, I believe, is John Hurt's Caligula which is played brilliantly, and that is no understatement. Caligula is always an odd character in both history and fiction, and John Hurt does the impossible by injecting both hilarity and eeriness into the mentally unstable emperor. Though Malcolm MacDowell did a terrific job in the controversial, and decidedly "smuttily inaccurate," version in Caligula by Tinto Brass, John Hurt's characterization is more interesting.

    As a whole, the entire plot is lengthy but coherent. You cannot help but get sucked in. It is no boring, old costume drama, but indeed a work full of intense gravity (i.e. Antonia's "farewell" and the secret meeting between Posthumus and Augustus), extreme hilarity (i.e. the marriage of Claudius to Urgulanilla), or an intriguing mix of both (i.e. the exposure of Livilla's murder plot by Antonia to Claudius, Tiberius, and Caligula, or the domestic strife between Julia and Tiberius). There is nudity and sex, but not so much that it makes you feel the need to shower after. There is violence and vulgarity, but not so much that it seems to beat you relentlessly over the head. I, Claudius is all about taste, variety, balance and unity. It is the reason it is still a classic and is relevant more than thirty years after its premiere.

    Liberties are taken with history, for example the infamous murder of Drusilla and cannibalism of her child by Caligula, or even the poisoning of Augustus by Livia, but speaking as a classicist, there is so much truth to the series (or at least it adheres to all the strange material we have from the sources that survive, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Dio especially). There are so many films, many of which are my favorites (Rome, Gladiator), that I would not recommend to any student as a basic run-down of historical events. I, Claudius is the exception.

    Yesterday, I bought the remastered, 4-disc edition. They did not give the series the "George Lucas treatment," but the sound is immensely improved as is the picture. There is hardly any hint of grain and finally it looks more like a DVD, rather than DVD on VHS like the old, 5-disc set. The soundtrack and voices are all clear as a bell. The menus are more appealing. This remastered US version is also unabridged, unlike the older 5 piece US set which cuts out/censors a few parts here and there. There are, however, still no subtitles included, but that is a minor quibble.

    I do hear a film-version -a "remake"- of I, Claudius is in the works with writer Jim Sheridan (of the film My Left Foot) acquiring the rights. I am eager to see Robert Graves' literary classic transferred onto the big screen with a large budget comparable to the sword-and-sandal dramas of recent years from HBO and Ridley Scott, but am wary that the acting will not match those of this beloved 1970s television miniseries. Many of them, after all, are Royal Shakespeare Company veterans. Part of the reason I, Claudius is so great is that the acting had to compensate for the production constraints... note the amount of extras used and reused, and the prevalence of close-up indoor shots versus wide-angle outdoor ones. Low production costs could have been a blessing in disguise. In the meantime, however, as we wait for Sheridan's big-screen remake do not hesitate to get this remastered set of one of televisions best events. The price is steep (though the remastered set is about 10 dollars less than the previous 5-disc version) but I would gladly pay way more for the classic material contained here....more info