Think history is boring? Think again! I Claudius is proof that an educational film can also be one of the most popular and entertaining series ever produced. A 1976 mini-series, starring many of the best known theatrical performers of its day, I Claudius is one of, if not the, greatest productions chronicling the history of the Roman Empire.
Covering the period from the later years of Augustus’s rule as the first emperor of Rome to the death of Emperor Claudius, I Claudius takes a look at the social and political underpinnings and developments of the Roman Empire through the eyes of Claudius, an often overlooked member of the emperor’s family. An epic in the true sense of the word, I Claudius should be on every film buff’s viewing.
A young male connected to the family line of Emperor Augustus, Claudius suffers from a strange limp and an odd stutter which make him appear to be a simple-minded youth. But Claudius maintains a keen intellect, and he observes the events around him with meticulous precision.
As the end of Augustus’s long reign as emperor nears its end, the ruler is in desperate search of an heir. But what he doesn’t know is that his wife Livia is determined to see her son from a previous marriage, Tiberius, ascend to the throne.
As such, Livia will stop at nothing to murder and ruin those who stand in the way – such as far more noble and deserving heir Germanicus. Through drowning, poisoning, and less subtle means, she insures Tiberius becomes the next in the line of succession…
Meanwhile, Claudius observes from the shadows as the ambitious Sejanus (Patrick Stewart) conspires to obtain the throne and the infamous Caligula rises to power.
When his relative is murdered because of his terrible reign of insanity, Claudius is thrust upon the throne, and he attempts to rule with a firm hand of justice and restore the republic to its rightful place of power…
Wrought with suspense, I Claudius will make its viewers question how any human survived the era known as the ancient Roman Empire. The murders, double-crossings, and various affairs seem to be drawn from a fictional paperback found on drugstore shelves – not in the pages of a history book.
But I Claudius stays true to the written account of Roman Emperor Claudius who wrote his memoirs during the few years of his reign as the supreme leader of the greatest empire ever to exist on Earth. The result is a story more intriguing than any book or film since produced.
With superb theatrical performances by the entire cast (including Patrick Stewart as Sejanus), I Claudius is an engrossing storyline about the true-to-life people and events that shaped the history of ancient Rome.
Like the popular prime-time soap opera Dallas, viewers are drawn to the intrigue surrounding the various characters without even realizing they’re learning history in the process!
Given its historical accuracy, brilliant dialogue, and ingenious performances, I Claudius ranks as a definite must-see series of films. In fact, one of the top five best of all time.
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