Cleopatra [1963]

Sophia Loren is in early bloom in this 1954 comedy, which was released years later (bluntly dubbed) in the U.S. to capitalize on her international success. Sophia plays two roles: Cleopatra, of course, and Cleopatra's double, a slave girl who spends a night impersonating the queen of Egypt. Mugging through this double act is Alberto Sordi, as a visiting Roman bewitched by the queen's lookalike. Rubber-faced Sordi, an enormous star in Italy for decades, looked like a cross between Sid Caesar and Gene Wilder, and his antic personality was given a long leash. One's enjoyment of this brand of Italian comedy depends on a taste for this kind of busy slapstick, a tradition upheld in Italy by Roberto Benigni. The silliness is certainly unpretentious, and at 78 minutes it really can't wear out its welcome. And the 20-year-old Loren looks like she's ready to conquer Egypt, if not the world. --Robert Horton

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