In an iconic role, Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra in the 1963 film of the same name.


Public fascination with Elizabeth Taylor endures. "Cleopatra," famous as much for launching her romance with Richard Burton as for any cinematic virtue, will get a 50th-anniversary release on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday. And it will be back on the big screen in select Cinemark theaters on Sunday.

Lindsay Lohan, too, remains an object of interest, as much for her many personal and legal struggles as for her occasional demonstrations of acting ability. So from a publicity standpoint alone, the casting of Lohan as Taylor in the TV movie "Liz & Dick" must have seemed like a good idea.

But, as you can see on DVD (Entertainment One, $19.98), the movie did little to help Lohan's reputation or to demonstrate what it was about Taylor that so mesmerized the public.

As the movie title suggests, it focuses on the Taylor-Burton relationship from Cleopatra through marriage and divorce, and remarriage and re-divorce, and on until Burton's death in 1984. (Taylor died in 2011.) As I said when the movie aired on Lifetime in November, it is a story of two people who seemed ill-matched - she a child of the movies, he a once-poor Welshman acclaimed for stage work including Shakespeare - but who were besotted with each other, embarking on adventures that were very costly, both financially and emotionally. Taylor's mantra is "I want more" - more of Burton, more diamonds - but Burton is shown as wanting a lot of what Taylor has, including not only real stardom, but an Academy Award to go with her two. (He never won.)

The movie was widely mocked, but I think a lot of that had to do with the ill will Lohan has accumulated with her tabloid exploits.

Grant Bowler, who plays Burton, acts well enough, and Lohan makes some moments work. But the movie overall is flat, and Lohan is miscast - wrong for Taylor in terms of voice and physicality, no matter how much eye makeup she wears. And the DVD is rather shabby, the extras consisting of brief "interview" segments with the stars and production people; Lohan's and Bowler's seem to have been shot hastily, and poorly miked, with their voices echoing in the room.