DVD REVIEW: Rome

HBO/BBC
Series •••• Picture/Sound •••• Extras ••••
In covering the period from Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul to his assassination, Season 1 of Rome displays production values usually associated with a big-budget movie. The 12 episodes on this six-disc set have sharp-as-a-dagger transfers that reveal an imaginative use of shadow and light. Buildings, murals, and painted columns are bright and colorful yet authentically weathered, with costume hues (and blood) even richer but just as realistic. In a sound mix that keeps all channels active, both crowd scenes and intimate trysts have remarkable presence.

This immaculately produced set is housed in a wooden box built to survive the ages, and extras are legion. In addition to eight enlightening commentaries by series cocreator Bruno Heller and cast members, there are optional informational subtitles for every episode. Three short featurettes cover the characters, the filming of Caesar's coronation, and the staging of the gladiator fight. A sixth disc is devoted to two longer production documentaries and a stills gallery. [NR] English, Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish, Dolby Digital stereo; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; six dual-layer discs.

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