Stanley Kubrick was only 31 years old when Kirk Douglas (star of Kubrick's classic Paths of Glory) recruited the young director to pilot this epic saga, in which the rebellious slave Spartacus (played by Douglas) leads a freedom revolt against the decadent Roman Empire. Kubrick would later disown the film because it was not a personal project--he was merely a director-for-hire--but Spartacus remains one of the best of Hollywood's grand historical epics. With an intelligent screenplay by then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (from a novel by Howard Fast), its message of moral integrity and courageous conviction is still quite powerful, and the all-star cast (including Charles Laughton in full toga) is full of entertaining surprises. Fully restored in 1991 to include scenes deleted from the original 1960 release, the full-length Spartacus is a grand-scale cinematic marvel, offering some of the most awesome battles ever filmed and a central performance by Douglas that's as sensitively emotional as it is intensely heroic. Jean Simmons plays the slave woman who becomes Spartacus's wife, and Peter Ustinov steals the show with his frequently hilarious, Oscar-winning performance as a slave trader who shamelessly curries favor with his Roman superiors. The restored version also includes a formerly deleted bathhouse scene in which Laurence Olivier plays a bisexual Roman senator (with restored dialogue dubbed by Anthony Hopkins) who gets hot and bothered over a slave servant played by Tony Curtis. These and other restored scenes expand the film to just over three hours in length. Despite some forgivable lulls, this is a rousing and substantial drama that grabs and holds your attention. Breaking tradition with sophisticated themes and a downbeat (yet eminently noble) conclusion, Spartacus is a thinking person's epic, rising above mere spectacle with a story as impressive as its widescreen action and Oscar-winning sets. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
While both versions of the film are the same, this version is devastated by a bad transer: both sound and picture quality are seriously lacking - even as far as a blue edge to blacks, including the widescreen matting, and blue fades in parts of the film. The sound is poorly balanced - voices are too quiet, music too loud. I was contantly turning the volume up and down throughout. So much for "fully restored."
If you are interested in quality and really like this movie I would skip this version and go for the Criterion release, which many other people own and have approved.
ADD ON: Since writing this review, word has come out that sometime later in 2015, a properly restored version of SPARTACUS will finally be released. This makes it a no brainer. Wait! The new blu has been worked on by Robert Harris, the same gentleman who was responsible for the expert film restoration in the 1990's.
Author of "Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman
The all-star cast of Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, and Peter Ustinov, more than makes up for Kirk Douglas' frequent forced acting. The love story with Jean Simmons could have been much shorter and perhaps would have been more interesting if they had based it on Spartacus' actual historic lover; a wild woman who claimed to be a prophetess and practiced sorcery.
The movie takes great poetic licence in recounting the social and cultural norms of ancient Rome by presenting a class conflict theme and plot structure; the Romans being like McCarthyists/capitalists and the slaves as Bolsheviks sacrificing all their labor for their commarades. The truth is that most of Spartacus' followers were exactly the gang of thieves and brigands that Kirk Douglass doesn't want them to be in the movie; more interested in quick plunder and mayhem than fighting for a desperate cause that no one at the time cared for anyway. Spartacus himself, given his overwhelming familiarity with legionary tactics, was (as historical sources suggest) probably a former auxillary or legionnaire who was condemned to slavery. The movie also wants to suggest that slavery was a product of pagan ignorance that needed the salvation of Christianity to see its cruelty. The legitimacy of slavery (spoils of war mostly) was the dominant world view in antiquity. Actually, early Christians were even more ardent believers of slavery than their pagan counterparts: believing that it was an immutable condition imposed by God.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Can't beat the pre cgi "wide screen cast of thousands" epics from the 50s and 60s. Also no 50s ere religious nonsense.Published 11 months ago by Northern bear
I agree with D. Gianniou. This is an astonishing restoration both in terms of visual and sound, bringing Spartacus to the same level as Ben-Hur's restoration. Read morePublished 12 months ago by M. Fortin
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