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I, Claudius

Release Year:      1976
Studio:      Acorn Media
Format:      Colour; NTSC
Rated:      Not Rated; Contains violence, nudity, and sexual content
# of Discs/Episodes:      5/13
Running Time:      668 minutes
DVD Release Date:      March 27, 2012

Screenwriters:      Robert Graves, Jack Pulman
Director:      Herbert Wise
Actors:      Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Margaret Tyzack, Sian Phillips, James Faulkner, Brian Blessed, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart
DVD Features:      Extended original versions of episodes 1 (52 min.) and 2 (52 min.); “I, Claudius”: A Television Epic, a behind-the-scenes look at the series (74 min.); The Epic That Never Was, a documentary recounting the failed 1937 film adaptation (71 min.); Derek Jacobi interview (12 min.); Favorite scenes of the cast and director (36 min.); 8-page booklet with an article about the series’ historical accuracy and a Julio-Claudian family tree; SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:      10/10

Acorn Media Write-up: 
The star-studded BBC epic, I, CLAUDIUS, arrives on DVD packed with bonus features. Winner of an Emmy and numerous other awards, this riveting tale of ambition, debauchery, and intrigue remains one of the most popular and acclaimed dramas in Masterpiece Theatre history. The celebrated BBC series spans the history of the Roman Empire from Augustus through Claudius, a stuttering scholar who learns early to play the fool and stay alive. The DVD 5-disc set includes the complete 12 episodes, along with a bonus disc, featuring two feature-length documentaries, extended original versions of the first episodes, a new Derek Jacobi interview, SDH subtitles, and much more.

Based on the novels by Robert Graves, it stars Derek Jacobi (“The King’s Speech”; “Cadfael”) as Claudius in a career-defining role. Sian Phillips (“The Age of Innocence”) is “exquisitely wicked” (Los Angeles Times) as the lethal Livia, wife to Augustus (Brian Blessed, “Hamlet”), while John Hurt (“The Elephant Man”) is “decadence personified” (USA Today) as the depraved Caligula, whose reign of terror paves the way for Claudius’s ascension. Patrick Stewart (“X-Men”), George Baker (“The Ruth Rendell Mysteries”), Margaret Tyzack (“Cousin Bette”) and James Faulkner (“The Bank Job”) also star.

Jon Ted Wynne Review: 
All the superlatives have been used to describe this ground-breaking serial which brought the “Claudius” novels of author Robert Graves to life in such a way that it brought about a cultural resurgence of all things Roman in the entertainment industry in the mid-seventies. Possibly the greatest BBC series of all time, I, CLAUDIUS introduced the concept of the Roman Emperors as families embroiled in high-class and utterly captivating soap operas.

It’s hard to believe it has been 35 years since this magnificent production first aired. Fortunately many of the key cast members are on hand to reminisce and recall their favourite scenes and stories related to the production. The extras included in this set is what really makes owning this set compulsory, though the quality of the original program is exceptional on its own. Chief among the extra features is the special TV documentary “The Epic That Never Was”, which tells the fascinating story of the first attempt to turn I, CLAUDIUS into a film back in the ’30s. Charles Laughton was to star as Claudius, and the outtakes in which he appears are absolutely fascinating to watch. Apart from being a vivid reminder of Laughton’s genius as an actor, the story of how the film ultimately came to be abandoned and subsequently gave rise to “the curse of Claudius” is every bit as compelling as the series itself.

If you’ve never sat down and actually watched I, CLAUDIUS in all its gory glory, then you must do so. There are a lot of naughty bits, as befits an accurate telling of the lives of the Emperors and their twisted behaviour, but it’s always tasteful, unlike, perhaps, some more recent attempts to dramatise ancient Rome on the small screen. Nonetheless, without I, CLAUDIUS as an illustrious pathfinder, all subsequent endeavours would be far less interesting, I’m sure.

Chances are you’ve heard how great an achievement I, CLAUDIUS was. It’s true. And it holds up today. If you’ve never seen it before, now is your chance. This beautifully-packaged 35th Anniversary Edition is just waiting for you. And if you’re already a fan of the show, this is the edition to own.

Due to the age of these programs and the improved resolution that DVD provides, you may notice occasional flaws in the image and audio on the DVD presentation that could not be corrected.