New on DVD: The Fall of the Roman Empire: Collector’s Edition

Our generation has seen epic films, but none like this. As the title suggests, the film documents a historically based, non-fiction account of the fall of the Roman Empire, beginning with a father-son betrayal and culminating in a battle in the arena. The story is inspired by the same one on which Gladiator was based, […]

The Fall of the Roman EmpireOur generation has seen epic films, but none like this. As the title suggests, the film documents a historically based, non-fiction account of the fall of the Roman Empire, beginning with a father-son betrayal and culminating in a battle in the arena. The story is inspired by the same one on which Gladiator was based, however little else between the two is comparable.

Anthony Mann’s extravagant retelling of this tale focuses less on the violence featured in Ridley Scott’s film and more on the dialogue. However, it also presents one of the most renowned casts – epic in its own right: two English stage actors (Alec Guinness and Christopher Plummer), a matinee star (Stephen Boyd), and an international beauty (Sophia Loren). To see these actors perform together was a draw in itself.

One of the real joys in watching this film is none of it is CGI. Modern filmmakers have so many technological alternatives; it is breathtaking to see it all done practically. The set was built in its entirety (no facades) and each of the 1000+ extras is flesh and costumed. One cannot be unimpressed.

Roman history enthusiasts will love the Encyclopedia Britannica shorts included on disc three; shot on location, it also shows more of the intricately built sets not utilized in the film. Film buffs will enjoy the featurette describing the “making of” an epic picture; it is awe-inspiring to see the scope of the production outside the narrative. And the two interests collide in the discussion of “Hollywood vs. History.” The collector’s edition also includes a 28-page booklet, which is a reproduction of the original 1964 souvenir program, and six postcard-sized stills.