Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Love Gladiator Flicks

Over the past couple of months I've been watching a rebroadcast of I, Claudius Sunday nights on my local PBS station. It's the first time I've seen it again since it originally aired, right at the peak of my Latin Club geekhood, and my sister had never seen it before at all ("I was out of the country then" is her standard excuse for anything she missed for whatever reason for the past 30 years, but in this case I think it might be true). After one episode, she dismissed it as "like Upstairs, Downstairs with togas"; but although I think the description is apt (or would be, if Upstairs, Downstairs had had a little more incest and murder), I think the series holds up rather well.

The early episodes, before Claudius becomes emperor, are still the most fun: not just because Livia and Caligula are such juicy characters and Sian Phillips and John Hurt portray them so well, but because it's a lot easier to deplore the goings-on when the narrator is just a helpless observer, not the one in power. (That old "oh-I-didn't-know-I-was-signing-the-death-warrant" routine didn't work for Queen Elizabeth I either, you know, Claudius.) I also adore Brian Blessed as Augustus; he reminds me of a football player who suddenly woke up one day as ruler of the known world, baffled but earnest in his attempt to do right. And I still go around sometimes muttering, "Quintilius Varus, where are my eagles?" much to the dismay and puzzlement of those around me.

The other fun part is to spot the occasional actor who appeared in the saga before he became well known, like Peter Bowles, who's been in every other British comedy series since the beginning of time; John Rhys-Davies, before he took Indiana Jones to Egypt; and oh my god is that Patrick Stewart with hair?

Incidentally, I found out over Christmas that my old Latin teacher had died. Ave atque vale, Mrs. Hayes.

1 comment:

Sally said...

I feel exactly the same way. I used to own I Claudius on bootleg Beta tapes and would watch it again and again.