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THE EPIC THAT NEVER WAS

UK, 1965 (MIFF 1967, Programme 38)

Director: Bill Duncalf

Unfinished, for reasons that were never entirely clear, / Claudius has become one of the most intriguing legends in film history. Nobody ever seemed to know how much of the film was shot; nobody knew the facts behind Laughton's reported "tantrums", or whether Merle Oberon's car crash need have been the decisive factor behind Korda's decision to stop filming. How great would I Claudius have been? Would it have been Sternberg's finest achievement?

This fascinating documentary settles many, if not all, of the myriad conjectures that have accumulated around this film maudit. Through recent interviews (including Sternberg himself), a probing and sympathetic reportage by Dirk Bogarde, and generous footage of rushes and edited film, this turns slowly into a moving tribute to Laughton the actor, and Sternberg emerges as an undeniable force in the process of creation.

I Claudius may or may not have turned out a total success. But as a piece of cinema archaeology, this investigation into the past is unique.

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