The true story of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, his assassination
at the hands of his friends, and the civil war that came from it.
Julius Caesar (1953)
Written and Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud,
Louis Calhern, Edmond O'Brien, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr
Based on the stage play by William Shakespeare
Oscar Wins - Best Art Direction
Oscar Nominees - Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando),
Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Miklós Rózsa)
Unless you're a hardcore classical literature obsessive, I highly doubt you're seeking out classic film adaptations of Shakespeare. As I learned from Olivier's Hamlet, these adaptations are difficult to get drawn into, despite involving some of Hollywood's greatest actors at the time. There's similar issues with Julius Caesar, though I did enjoy this one a lot more thanks to Brando's committed performance and a much easier to follow story. Unlike Hamlet, Julius Caesar is also a biopic, telling the story of the murder of Rome's most famous emperor. And it's not bad. Just fairly dull, because it's Shakespeare.
The film is mostly told from the perspective of Brutus (Mason, who is fantastic as well), yet Brando got top billing because Hollywood has never known a bigger diva than Marlon Brando, even when he was fairly small potatoes. Coming off two Oscar nominations, Brando was cast mainly to put asses in seats, but he impressed everyone so much that he was no longer considered to be just a movie star. Now, he was an actor. He plays Mark Antony, Caesar's close friend who starts a civil war over his murder. The best part of the film is the bit in between the murder and the war, when Antony is riling up his countrymen with talk of treason and mutiny against Brutus and the senators. The war itself was remarkably dull, and with Brutus's abrupt suicide, the whole thing just sort of ends. I haven't read the play, so I don't know how well-adapted it was.
Julius Caesar is a decent film, if only for the dedicated performances. But again, it's Shakespeare, so be prepared to decipher a lot of complex dialogue. I don't think his work is wholly adaptable to film. I think a lot of it is made simply so actors can prove themselves. It's not as entertaining as it was in the 1300's, because storytelling simply got better. I know I'm in a very small minority here, but fuck it. Still, it could be worse.